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Trump bashes DeSantis in lengthy statement for ‘playing games’ with 2024 buzz

Two days after Gov. Ron DeSantis’ landslide win, the former president goes nuclear on the man he previously endorsed.
Former President Donald Trump, right, and Florida's governor Ron DeSantis held a COVID-19 and storm preparedness roundtable in Belleair, Florida, July 31, 2020.
Former President Donald Trump, right, and Florida's governor Ron DeSantis held a COVID-19 and storm preparedness roundtable in Belleair, Florida, July 31, 2020. [ SAUL LOEB | GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA ]
Published Nov. 10|Updated Nov. 11

Less than 48 hours after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won reelection in a landslide on an otherwise worse-than-expected night for Republicans, his former political benefactor, Donald Trump, ended their cold war by dropping a bomb.

In an official statement released Thursday evening, Trump bashed the governor as ungrateful and “average,” and accusing him of “playing games” with his potential 2024 presidential run.

The angry and wide-ranging message shows in stark terms how a frustrated Trump regards DeSantis as a rival for the Republican presidential nomination, even as DeSantis has avoided criticizing Trump publicly. If the tension between the two men hadn’t sufficiently become evident before, it will be difficult for both DeSantis’ and Trump’s advisers to deny now.

The statement relitigates 2018, when DeSantis first won the governor’s race largely thanks to Trump’s endorsement.

“Ron came to me in desperate shape in 2017 — he was politically dead, losing in a landslide to a very good Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, who was loaded up with cash and great poll numbers,” reads part of the 475-word emailed statement. Putnam was DeSantis’ opponent in the Republican primary. “When I Endorsed him, it was as though, to use a bad term, a nuclear weapon went off.”

DeSantis’ reelection campaign did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Trump also claimed that DeSantis would have lost to the Democratic nominee for governor in 2018, Andrew Gillum — whom he disparages by calling a “Crack Head” — had it not been for his intervention as president. He said: “when votes were being stolen by the corrupt Election process in Broward County ... I sent in the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys, and the ballot theft immediately ended.”

There is no evidence to suggest this claim of attempted voter fraud is true.

“And now, Ron DeSanctimonious is playing games! The Fake News asks him if he’s going to run if President Trump runs, and he says, ‘I’m only focused on the Governor’s race, I’m not looking into the future.’” said Trump’s statement. “Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer.”

Trump’s statement complained about conservative media being “all in” for DeSantis. In the statement, he resurrected one of his more memorable nicknames from the 2016 GOP primary battle for president against Florida’s former governor, who also ran against him for president.

“The Wall Street Journal loved Low Energy Jeb Bush, and a succession of other people as they rapidly disappeared from sight, finally falling in line with me after I easily knocked them out, one by one,” Trump states. “We’re in exactly the same position now. They will keep coming after us, MAGA, but ultimately, we will win. Put America First and, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Times staff writer Kirby Wilson contributed to this report.

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