Former President Donald Trump took aim at potential Republican primary foe Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a recent campaign event, with much of the criticism garnering little enthusiasm from those in attendance.
During his Saturday campaign event in Waco, Texas, on Saturday, Trump argued that DeSantis had little chance of becoming Florida’s governor without the former president’s endorsement, with Trump breaking into an impersonation of DeSantis allegedly begging him for his support in the state’s 2018 Republican primary.
“So, he came, and he really wanted [my endorsement]. I said, ‘You can’t win, can you? How do you – can [you] win?'” Trump said, recalling the alleged conversation with DeSantis. “‘Sir, if you endorse me, I’ll win. Please, please, sir, endorse me,'” Trump continued as he acted out a crying, begging voice.
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While similar jabs against political opponents have been a hit with Trump’s crowds during past rallies, those in attendance were noticeably more silent as Trump took aim at DeSantis. Though some in the crowd could be heard laughing or clapping as Trump continued to be critical of DeSantis, the reaction of the crowd was much more silent than when Trump went after other targets, such as the mainstream media.
DeSantis, who has yet to declare a 2024 White House bid, is largely regarded as Trump’s biggest rival in the Republican primary field. Having just won reelection in Florida in a landslide, many analysts have noted the governor’s growing national profile and popularity in the key swing state as a reason DeSantis could be a legitimate challenger to Trump.
That reality has caused Trump to more frequently target DeSantis for criticism in recent weeks, with that trend continuing during the former president’s event in Waco.
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“He gets the nomination because of you. He wins the election because of you. Two years later, the fake … is up there saying, ‘Will you run against the president? Will you run?’ And he says, ‘I have no comment,’” Trump said after arguing that DeSantis was virtually dead in the race before his endorsement.
Trump went after DeSantis for his handling of COVID-19, arguing that other states did not shut down as Florida did at the beginning of the pandemic, and blasted the Florida governor’s record of attempting to slash Social Security benefits while a member of Congress.
The former president also argued that Florida was in great shape well before DeSantis took office.
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“Remember one thing: Florida has been tremendously successful for many years, long before this guy became governor,” Trump said. “Florida was tremendously successful under Rick Scott … whether you like him or not, Charlie Crist was very successful, he was a Republican at the time. But Florida has been successful for decades, in fact, probably as or more successful than it is now.”
DeSantis’ office did not immediately reply to a Fox News request for comment on Trump’s remarks.