DeSantis Responds to Trump as His Poll Numbers Decline
After remaining silent for weeks in the face of growing attacks from the former president, Florida Governor DeSantis is now responding to Trump.
DeSantis’ new offensive posture comes as he slips in polls of potential 2024 GOP presidential candidates. Though the governor hasn’t officially announced his campaign, he and Trump are considered the runaway favorites for the nomination.
In an interview with British TV personality Piers Morgan, DeSantis all but confirmed his future plans. He also made several overt jabs at Trump and claimed he could beat President Joe Biden.
“I have what it takes to be president and I can beat Biden,” DeSantis told Morgan, according to Morgan’s write-up of the interview published in the New York Post.
About Trump’s insults, DeSantis described them as “just background noise.”
“Social media arguments with people are not important to me. For the people I speak for, it has no positive results. So, we really just focus on knocking out victories, day after day. And if I got involved in all the undertow, I would not be able to be an effective governor,” he said.
Trump has nicknamed DeSantis “Ron DeSanctimonious” – something DeSantis brushed off.
“I mean, you can call me whatever you want, just as long as you also call me a winner because that’s what we’ve been able to do in Florida is put a lot of points on the board and really take this state to the next level,” DeSantis said of the nickname.
Trump has also labeled the governor a RINO – in other words, a traitor to the MAGA cause – and this week heightened his attacks by implying that DeSantis could face accusations of impropriety from “classmates that are ‘underage’ (or possibly a man!).”
The escalation comes as a Manhattan district attorney considers filing criminal charges against Trump for his alleged role in buying off a porn star during his 2016 campaign in order to prevent her from speaking out about an extramarital affair she claims she had with Trump.
Along with other Republicans, DeSantis earlier this week denounced the investigation as a political witch hunt, but he also took the opportunity to poke fun at Trump for the charges under investigation and distinguish himself from porn scandals.
“That is, in fact, completely outside of my expertise. I mean, that’s just not something that I can speak to,” Morgan heard DeSantis reiterate.
In the interview with Morgan, DeSantis also seemed to criticize Trump’s penchant for the dramatic.
“Therefore, I believe that the way we run the government is to avoid daily drama, concentrate on the big picture, and score points. And I think that’s something that’s very important,” he said.
Whether DeSantis’ newfound aggressiveness will pay off is an open question.
In earlier polls of potential GOP primary contests, DeSantis and Trump appeared to be neck and neck, with DeSantis winning some of the polls.
But Trump has since pulled away from the governor, in both one-on-one matchups and when considering a wider field, according to an analysis of polling averages by The New York Times.
In a Morning Consult survey conducted over the weekend, Trump netted 54% of the Republican primary vote when considering a multi-candidate field, compared to 26% who say they’d vote for DeSantis. That distance narrows but holds when considering a hypothetical head-to-head matchup:
In a similar poll released last week by Quinnipiac University, In a crowded Republican primary field, Trump received 46% of the vote, beating out other contenders. DeSantis’ 32%—a gap that has grown since February. When compared to a hypothetical head-to-head contest, the gap narrows but remains the same: Trump received 51% of the vote, while DeSantis received 40%.
An indictment may also help Trump’s popularity even more, according to some estimates. The former president has made it clear that he plans to rally his supporters by using the Manhattan probe.
It’s a tactic that might be successful. In August of last year, after federal agents searched Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, for secret documents, his polling numbers increased.