A former Republican congressman has argued Florida governor Ron DeSantis would be far more “dangerous” as the standard-bearer of the Republican base.
“Ron DeSantis is far more dangerous than Donald Trump,” former Florida representative David Jolly told MSNBC on Tuesday. “He’s more savvy. He’s more coy. And he doesn’t have the pitfalls that Donald Trump does.”
The one-term congressman, formerly a Republican and now an independent, lashed out at the Florida governor, one of the most popular Republicans in the country, lambasting his handling of the Covid crisis, critical race theory, voting rights, and other matters in the state.
“Florida’s not free if your kids can’t be exposed to the full curriculum that would make them smarter and better educated students,” he added. “Florida’s not free if you can’t get a test or treatment for Covid. Florida’s not free if you don’t have access to the ballot box.”
The comparison between Mr Trump and Mr DeSantis is increasingly on the mind of political observers, as top Republicans begin positioning themselves for the 2024 presidential race. Both men are thought of frontrunners, and recent polling suggests the Florida governor would top the field if Mr Trump wasn’t present.
Other top Republicans have said they won’t run if Mr Trump throws his hat in the ring, but so far the Florida governor hasn’t made such a commitment.
The two appear to be trading thinly veiled insults in recent weeks.
A Trump confidante recently told Axios that the former president thinks his occasional ally in Florida “has no personal charisma and has a dull personality”.
Mr Trump also said politicians who don’t comment on whether they’ve gotten the Covid booster shot—a group that includes Mr DeSantis—are “gutless.”
“I’ve had the booster. Many politicians — I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?’ because they had the vaccine, and they’re answering like — in other words, the answer is ‘yes’ but they don’t want to say it because they’re gutless,” the former president, who has yet to announce an official 2024 bid, said last week.
The Florida governor, for his part, has said speculation about a rift between the two is a media creation, not a reality.
He did, however, offer criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the Covid crisis on an episode of the Ruthless podcast last week, recounting his discussions with the administrations during the early stages of the coronavirus in 2020.
“I never thought it would lead to locking down the country,” Mr DeSantis said. “Knowing now what I know then, if that [a lockdown was] a threat earlier, I would have been much louder about trying to say, you know, this is not [inaudible]. But what happened was people like [Dr. Anthony] Fauci panicked.”
Donald Trump held his first campaign-style rally of the year over weekend in Arizona, where he sympathised with 6 January insurrection plotters and continued to insist falsely that he won the 2020 election.
“These people are living in hell, they’re being hounded like you hound the worst animals,” Trump said. “The real insurrection took place on Election Day, Nov. 3.”