Mainstream media outlets have been hyping recent public and private comments by former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as proof the two Republicans are on a political collision course.
Trump and DeSantis seem much less interested in a clash than the media is.
Axios and The New York Times published splashy anonymously sourced reports Sunday that made much of Trump trash-talking DeSantis to confidantes.
“Donald Trump is trashing Ron DeSantis in private as an ingrate with a ‘dull personality’ and no realistic chance of beating him in a potential 2024 showdown,” Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported, citing two sources “who’ve recently talked to the former president about the Florida governor.”
- “I wonder why the guy won’t say he won’t run against me,” Trump has said to several associates and advisers, reported the Times’ Jonathan Martin and Maggie Habberman.
- DeSantis “has told friends he believes Mr. Trump’s expectation that he bend the knee is asking too much,” according to the Times.
- The Times noted that DeSantis, who has denied any plans to run in 2024, is a “distant but potent second” to Trump in polls of the GOP field.
- Neither the Trump nor DeSantis camps provided comment for the reports.
Recent interviews by Trump and DeSantis have also been interpreted in the media as part of their supposed feud.
- DeSantis said on the “Ruthless” podcast, recorded Thursday, that one of his biggest regrets in office was not speaking out “much louder” in March 2020, when Trump advised Americans to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
- Days earlier, on Tuesday, Trump appeared on One America News and slammed as “gutless” politicians who dodge questions about whether they received COVID-19 boosters, as DeSantis did last month.
In response to the Axios and Times reports, conservative commentators like Roger Stone and The Federalist’s Inez Stepman took sides.
Trump was a good battering ram, but DeSantis has a chance to be a real statesman.
— Inez Stepman ⚪️🔴⚪️ (@InezFeltscher) January 16, 2022
Jesse Kelly, a talk show host, suggested Trump, who has strongly hinted he will run for reelection, would benefit from a DeSantis challenge.
The best thing that could happen to Donald Trump and his faithful would be a Ron DeSantis primary challenge. Trump needs it. Needs to get sharp again. Needs to get back on message. A formidable primary challenger helps with that. Without it, not sure he can win. https://t.co/5cbQWLzeQW
— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) January 16, 2022
Others on the right, though, expressed skepticism about the media’s Trump-DeSantis narrative, with support from the Florida’s governor’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw.
Yup, the shade was definitely aimed at Fauci and possibly Birx. This is also obvious to anyone who has paid even the slightest attention to the Governor’s public statements about Fauci, or his campaign selling anti-Fauci merchandise LOL
— Christina Pushaw 🐊 (@ChristinaPushaw) January 14, 2022
“They’re the two most important leaders in the Republican Party,” longtime Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard told the Times, predicting Trump and DeSantis “will be personal and political friends for the rest of their careers.”
In last week’s “Ruthless” interview, DeSantis dismissed rumors of tensions with Trump, saying: “I think this is what the media does. You cannot fall for the bait … you know what they’re trying to do, so just don’t take it.”
- “Just keep on keeping on,” DeSantis added. “We need everybody united for a big red wave in 2022. We’ve got to fight the left, and not only fight, but beat the left. And that’s what we’re doing in Florida.”