Former President Donald Trump took aim at Gov Ron DeSantis ’ leadership of Florida during the worst of the Covid-19 crisis during a recent campaign swing through New Hampshire and South Carolina. On Tuesday, Mr DeSantis fired back.
“When you’re an elected executive, you have to make all kinds of decisions,” Mr DeSantis said. “You got to steer that ship. And the good thing is, is that the people are able to render a judgment on that – whether they re-elect you or not.
“And I’m happy to say, you know, in my case, not only did we win re-election, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida,” he continued. “We won by the largest raw vote margin – over 1.5 million votes – than any governor candidate has ever had in Florida history.”
Mr Trump, who launched his third bid for the White House last November, trotted out several different lines of attack against his potential main rival over the weekend.
He accused Mr DeSantis of “trying to rewrite history” regarding his handling of the first months Covid-19 pandemic in Florida, arguing that the state was locked down for longer than Mr DeSantis leads people to believe, and also told the Associated Press that a DeSantis candidacy for president would be a “great act of disloyalty” to him personally.
Florida and a handful of other states like Georgia all but ended their Covid-related restrictions during the summer of 2020 and have relatively low vaccination rates, factors that some public health officials believe has led to thousands of excess deaths in those states.
Mr DeSantis has not yet announced his plans for 2024, but it is widely believed that he is preparing to run for president and is the only potential candidate who has led Mr Trump in multiple polls of early voting states.
Mr DeSantis’ popularity with Republican voters, notable given his attacks on voting rights, academic freedom, transgender Floridians, and a variety of cultural issues that animate the right, has seemingly caught Mr Trump’s attention.
The former president, who is facing an array of legal issues stemming from his actions during the course of the 2016 and 2020 presidential camapigns, is beginning to ramp up his campaign activities after scheduling relatively few events during the holiday period.
His attacks on Mr DeSantis mark an inflection point in the relationship between the two far right politicians, who were close allies when Mr DeSantis narrowly defeated Andrew Gillum in his first gubernatorial race in Florida in 2018.
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