The esteemed Kerry Eleveld reported on these nascent internecine noogies earlier this week, but now we have new reporting from the redoubtable Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair.
In recent days I spoke with a half dozen GOP insiders about the recent flare-ups between DeSantis’s and Trump’s camps. The sources agreed that DeSantis and Trump are on an inevitable collision course as the 2024 GOP field takes shape. “There’s going to be a blowup,” a prominent Republican said. “Trump fucking hates DeSantis. He just resents his popularity,” a Trump confidant told me. Asked for comment, Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington said: “Governor DeSantis has shown great respect.”
Yup. DeSantis committed the cardinal sin against Trump: outshining him. Not only did DeSantis narrowly defeat Trump in a recent conservative straw poll, Trump also insists DeSantis would be nowhere without Trump. (This is probably true. In any other world, DeSantis would be regarded by all decent, thinking people as a frothing, death-worshiping maniac. Post-Trump, he’s just a Republican.)
Part of Trump’s irritation with DeSantis is that Trump famously claims credit for anyone in his orbit who gains attention. “Trump tells people, ‘I made Ron,’” the prominent Republican said. “Trump says that about a lot of people. But in this case it’s actually true.” According to sources, then congressman DeSantis cultivated Trump’s support during the 2018 gubernatorial primary by hanging out at Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel. “Ron basically ran his primary campaign out of the hotel. He buttonholed Trump supporters and his friends,” the prominent Republican said.
For much of the 2018 gubernatorial primary, DeSantis trailed Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam. But after Trump endorsed DeSantis in June, DeSantis zoomed 12 points ahead. DeSantis won the primary by nearly 20 points.
Red (hat) alert! The sycophant in Pod 1,742 has attained sentience and free will! Eliminate threat immediately!
According to Sherman, DeSantis has also shown a semblance of a backbone when dealing with Trump. He’s occasionally pushed back on the twice-impeached Florida retiree in private, and he’s also been building a war chest through his PAC, presumably to buttress a future presidential run.
“Heading into 2024, DeSantis is primed to push Trump off the throne,” former Trump insider Sam Nunberg told Sherman. “Trump surely sees this coming and will ultimately offer Gov. DeSantis a joint ticket.” Sure, he’ll offer him a joint ticket—if Vladimir Putin hasn’t poisoned him by then. Or if Trump’s next Happy Meal doesn’t mysteriously include a digital kompromat file on the Florida governor.
Personally, I doubt that Trump will run again. He can’t face the possibility of losing the presidency twice. But that doesn’t mean he wants some other worthless gob of slag to rise to the top.
Honestly, at this point DeSantis may scare me more than Trump. He’s basically a 42-year-old Trump, without the gaudy excesses and impulse-control issues. He could win. A fatal blow from Trump would be welcome, before Florida Man No. 2 gets enough traction to bring his COVID-19 Kill Show to Washington.