Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won the state’s 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary and then edged a heavily favored Democrat candidate in the general election because of Donald Trump’s endorsement, the former president proclaimed at his March 25 campaign rally in Waco, Texas.
During a week where he has faced a possible indictment from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg over a hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, Trump has increased his focus on DeSantis, who has yet to enter the 2024 presidential race but is widely considered as Trump’s most serious potential contender.
Reinforcing previous comments, Trump at the rally said that before DeSantis was governor, “Florida was tremendously successful under Rick Scott” and that Charlie Crist’s tenure as governor was a success.
“Florida has been successful for decades,” Trump said.
Trump praised the loyalty of legislators in the audience like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Then he turned his attention back to DeSantis.
In 2018, DeSantis was trailing former congressman Adam Putnam in the Republican primary, approached Trump with “tears in his eyes,” and asked for an endorsement, Trump said.
“I said ‘I can’t give you an endorsement. There’s no way you can win. You’re dead,” Trump added.
But DeSantis pleaded for Trump’s backing, Trump said.
“I said alright, let’s give it a shot,” Trump added. “And I endorsed him, and he became like a rocket ship. Within one day, the race was over. He got the nomination.”
In the general election, DeSantis was considered an underdog against rising Democrat figure Andrew Gillum. DeSantis won by a narrow margin, a victory Trump has repeatedly said happened because of his endorsement.
Trump once again took issue at DeSantis saying “no comment” when asked by reporters if he will run for president in 2024.
“I said, ‘That’s not supposed to happen,'” Trump explained.
Trump first talked about DeSantis at the rally after saying that “I stood up to China like no other president has ever stood up before. You didn’t even know China was a problem until I came along.”
Farmers love Trump, the former president said, because he implemented China tariffs.
“They keep saying, Oh, I think the ‘DeSanctus’ could do OK with farmers. I don’t think so. Based based on polls, he’s not doing OK with anything,” Trump remarked.
A Monmouth University poll taken from March 16 to 20 showed Trump with a 41 percent to 27 percent lead.
In late January, DeSantis held a 53 percent to 40 percent advantage over Trump in a two-person primary, and the two candidates were deadlocked at 33 percent with other names included in the Monmouth survey.
“It’s never good to try and destroy Social Security. It’s never good to raise the minimum age to a very high level, which was not good. And to go against Medicare, and try and obliterate it. These are a few of the good facts,” Trump said.
Earlier this week on Truth Social, Trump wrote a post about DeSantis: “He is, for a Republican, an average Governor, he got 1.2 million less Votes in Florida than me, he fought for massive cuts in Social Security and Medicare, and wanted Social Security minimum age to be raised to 70-years-old, or more.”
On March 24, Trump said that an alliance with DeSantis is “very unlikely” and that he has never considered DeSantis as a 2024 running mate.
DeSantis on Trump
At a news conference on March 20, DeSantis commented about the New York case involving Trump.
“I have no interest in getting involved in some manufactured circus by some Soros-DA,” DeSantis said, referring to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. “He’s trying to do a political spectacle. He’s trying to virtue signal for his base. I’ve got real issues I got to deal with here in the state of Florida.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen but I do know this: the Manhattan district attorney is a Soros-funded prosecutor,” DeSantis added.
After accusing Bragg of weaponizing his office by pursuing Trump, DeSantis brought up the allegations against the former president and said that they don’t apply to him.
“I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair, I just, I can’t speak to that,” DeSantis said.
During an interview with Newsmax on March 22, DeSantis was asked if he would join Trump’s 2024 ticket.
“I think I am probably more of an executive guy. I think that you want to be able to do things,” DeSantis said. “That’s part of the reason I got into this job, is because we have action. We’re able to make things happen, and I think that’s probably what I’m best suited for.”
“He’s trying to do a political spectacle,” DeSantis added. “I’ve got real issues I’ve got to deal with here in the state of Florida.”
DeSantis added that, if he entered the 2024 presidential race, he thinks he could defeat Biden.
When asked if he believes he could beat Biden if he were to enter the 2024 presidential race, the Florida governor replied, “I think so,” before touting his decisive success in the midterm elections.
Earlier at the Waco rally, Trump attorney Christina Bobb said that DeSantis “will come out a bloodied pulp” if he enters the Republican primary.
“I would not want to enter the octagon with Donald Trump. Nobody comes out of that and looks pretty,” Bobb said.
“In order for Ron DeSantis to mildly stand a chance with Donald Trump, he has to attack Donald Trump, and people who attack Donald Trump don’t fare well,” she added.