- DeSantis said Trump is running from the “left” as the Fla. governor has now entered the 2024 race.
- In a range of interviews, DeSantis sought to assert himself as the true conservative in the primary.
- Based on polling, Trump at the moment remains the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Thursday wasted little time going after former President Donald Trump after announcing his White House run, accusing the ex-commander-in-chief of “going left” on fiscal and cultural issues.
DeSantis, who is widely viewed as Trump’s top competitor for the Republican presidential nomination, has used his governorship to champion and enact a range of deeply conservative policies, from limitations on the discussion of race in classrooms to a newly-signed six-week abortion ban, along with the creation of a law enforcement unit that will pursue election crimes and a ban on the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in all K-12 classrooms.
In a range of interviews, DeSantis — who has made his “Florida blueprint” of conservative governance a defining feature of his candidacy — blasted the ex-president over everything from the influence of former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci to the national debt.
The governor’s direct attacks on Trump are a departure from the past few months, when the onetime ally of the former president was still a prospective candidate. Before jumping into the race, DeSantis generally tiptoed around criticizing Trump by name.
That’s no longer the case.
DeSantis, who took office in 2019, has long been a vociferous critic of COVID-19 restrictions. The governor banned vaccine passports in Florida, and despite having pursued critical resources from the federal government earlier in the pandemic, he later began to question the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines.
“He did great for three years, but when he turned the country over to Fauci in March of 2020, that destroyed millions of people’s lives,” DeSantis said of Trump while speaking with radio host Glenn Beck. “And in Florida, we were one of the few that stood up, cut against the grain, took incoming fire from media, bureaucracy, the left, even a lot of Republicans, had schools open, preserved businesses.”
While speaking with radio host Matt Murphy, DeSantis sought to elevate his tenure in office as more rooted in conservatism than Trump.
“It seems like he’s running to the left and I have always been somebody that’s just been moored in conservative principles,” the governor said. “So these will be interesting debates to have, but I can tell you, you don’t win nationally by moving to the left, you win nationally by standing for bold policy. I never watered down anything I did.”
“I don’t know what happened to Donald Trump,” he continued. “This is a different guy today than when he was running in 2015 and 2016 and I think the direction that he’s going with his campaign is the wrong direction.”
DeSantis than sought to paint himself as a Republican candidate who could win a general election against President Joe Biden, pointing to Trump’s 2020 loss in Georgia, a Southern swing state that from 1996 to 2016 had backed GOP candidates on the presidential level until the former Democratic vice president’s electoral breakthrough.
“I do believe that there’s a limit to the number of voters that would consider the former president at this point,” DeSantis told Newsmax’s Eric Bolling in an interview. “I think that there are some people that don’t like Biden, but they would like another option. So I think my ceiling is higher in a general election.”
And while speaking with host Jack Heath on “Good Morning New Hampshire,” DeSantis tore apart Trump’s fiscal record, stating that the former president “added almost $8 trillion in debt in just four years as president.”
Despite DeSantis’ appeal among many conservatives looking to move past the Trump era, the former president remains the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. As of May 27, the national polling average on FiveThirtyEight had Trump ahead of DeSantis 53.9%-20.4%.
Responding to DeSantis’ most recent remarks, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung dinged the Florida governor, comparing him unfavorably to former Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a presidential candidate who has yet to gain significant traction in the GOP race. Cheung called Hutchinson “Ada,” which Trump has also done in the past.
“President Trump continues to soar in the polls — both nationally and statewide,” Cheung said in a statement to Insider. “Meanwhile, Ron DeSanctimonious is dropping like a rock and is polling closer to Ada Hutchinson than he is to President Trump.”