Trump ups rhetoric against DeSantis while attacking Florida, too

The Wednesday statement is the latest escalation between the two Republicans.
This combination of the photos shows former President Donald Trump, left, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right.
This combination of the photos shows former President Donald Trump, left, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right. [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]
Published March 23

The war of words between former President Donald Trump and his former protégé, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, continued Wednesday.

Trump fired off his latest attack against DeSantis, widely considered his chief rival in a 2024 bid for the GOP nomination for president. Trump called him an “average governor” while citing what he claimed were poor safety and education statistics in his own home state.

In a blistering statement released Wednesday evening, Trump, a Palm Beach resident, said that Florida “has been successful for many years, long before” DeSantis became governor, before attacking what he said was the Sunshine State’s low rankings nationally in education, affordability, violent crime and more.

“HARDLY GREATNESS THERE!” Trump’s statement said.

DeSantis earlier this week took a swipe at Trump over his ties to allegations of hush-money payment to a porn star in 2016. Trump is awaiting a possible indictment this week related to that payment.

Related: At Mar-a-Lago, a subdued crowd supports Trump as indictment looms

And in a recent interview with Piers Morgan, set to air on Fox Nation’s “Piers Morgan Uncensored” on Thursday, DeSantis appeared to compare himself favorably to Trump’s often chaotic management style.

“I also think just in terms of my approach to leadership, I get personnel in the government who have the agenda of the people and share our agenda,” DeSantis said, according to a New York Post piece by Morgan. “You bring your own agenda in, you’re gone. We’re just not gonna have that. So, the way we run the government, I think, is no daily drama, focus on the big picture and put points on the board, and I think that’s something that’s very important.”

Related: DeSantis response to potential Trump arrest an early 2024 test | Analysis

Trump and his surrogates have hit back this week.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who once served on DeSantis’ transition team, suggested the governor should block any potential extradition of Trump from Florida to New York and said that “not doing so puts every Floridian at risk who could be the subject of a false allegation.”

Trump posted on social media that DeSantis should be wary of being the subject of false allegations as interest in the governor ramps up further.

“Ron DeSanctimonious will probably find out about FALSE ACCUSATIONS & FAKE STORIES sometime in the future, as he gets older, wiser, and better known, when he’s unfairly and illegally attacked by a woman, even classmates that are ‘underage’ (or possibly a man!). I’m sure he will want to fight these misfits just like I do!” Trump wrote.

In the statement released Wednesday evening, Trump said he was putting out the statement because DeSantis “is finally admitting he’s in the Race by beginning to fight back.” The statement did not include the sources of where he got his state rankings.

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He called DeSantis a “lockdown governor” in the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic and said DeSantis’ success in Florida “is all a mirage.”