The two Republicans are increasingly hostile towards each other in recent weeks.
Ron DeSantis owns Florida — and increasingly the Republican Party. But any presidential ambitions he has will put him on a collision course with Donald Trump.
The GOP Florida governor’s win-at-all-costs brand of politics, increasingly embraced by conservatives across the country, was on display this weekend as Florida hosted two GOP conventions that showcased the state’s national importance in the Republican Party and DeSantis’ role in reshaping it.
A growing legion of conservatives see DeSantis as what’s next in the party. Yet Trump’s popularity was clear on Saturday night when he spoke to thousands of young conservatives in Tampa and suggested he’s running for president.
“If I announced I was not going to run for office, the persecution of Donald Trump would immediately stop,” Trump said at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit. “But that’s what they want me to do. And you know what? There’s no chance I do that.”
Several recent polls have shown Republican voters moving away from Trump and inching toward DeSantis. The Florida governor, who has repeatedly said he is focusing on his 2022 re-election bid, is also beating Trump at fundraising.
In Hollywood, Fla., on the state’s Atlantic Coast, the Republican Party of Florida held its annual Sunshine Summit, a two-day event largely funded by money DeSantis raised for the Florida GOP. State Republicans including DeSantis gathered at the Seminole Hard Rock, where some of the state’s most prominent Republican officials held formal party business just yards away from bikini-clad hotel guests and gamblers playing slot machines.
More than 250 miles away, in Tampa, the conservative student organization Turning Point USA also held a summit that featured speeches from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Fox News host Laura Ingraham and Trump, among others. The former president’s appearance came just a day after he held a rally in Prescott, Ariz., to support Kari Lake in her bid for governor there.
“We’re going to take back our liberty,” Trump said during his nearly two-hour-long speech in Tampa. “We’re going to take back our liberty. We’re going to take back our destiny. We’re going to take back, very soon, our country.”
The audience for Trump’s event was mostly young people from all over the country, and cheered and clapped throughout his speech. He received his biggest applause when he hinted he would run for election though he didn’t provide any specifics.
“Everything this corrupt establishment is doing to me is all about preserving their control over the American people,” Trump said to the estimated 5,000 people in attendance. “They want to damage me in any form so I can no longer represent you. Obviously, they want me not to be the candidate because they never talk about anybody else.”
DeSantis delivered a speech to the same Tampa crowd on Friday.
The Florida Republicans event in Hollywood, Fla. was much smaller than the Turning Point conference and was influenced heavily by DeSantis.
For the first time in the event’s seven-year history, it limited which media could attend, giving inside-the-room access to right-wing outlets that give the governor positive coverage. Traditional party figures were also largely replaced by the conservative social media influencers with massive followings who have recently moved to Florida and become some of DeSantis’ most vocal backers, with conservative commentator Dave Rubin and Fox News personality Lisa Boothe among them.
“We in the state of Florida are not going to allow legacy media outlets to be involved in our primaries,” DeSantis said in remarks opening the Florida GOP event on Saturday. “I’m not going to have a bunch of left-wing media people asking our candidates gotcha questions.”
The possible clash between the two is one of the major tension points within national Republican circles, as DeSantis, who rode a Trump endorsement in 2018 to win his party’s nomination for Florida Republican governor, has seen his popularity skyrocket, as was evidenced by his fans at the state Republican event.
“I love President Trump, but he is the boogeyman that Democrats use to run against. Without him they have nothing. No platform,” said James Lefebvre, an attendee at the Sunshine Summit, who was sitting at one of the Hard Rock’s restaurants asking passersby if they support DeSantis for president.
“I like an asshole as president, I really do, so it has nothing to do with that,” he added. “I just think DeSantis can unify people a bit more, and without him the Democrats have nothing.”
He said fights DeSantis’ picks at the state level have resonated with him and conservatives nationally, most notably pushing Florida’s Republican-led Legislature to strip Disney of its self-governing status after it expressed opposition to DeSantis-championed legislation banning lessons about gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms up to third grade. Opponents branded the bill “Don’t Say Gay.”
Trump’s presence over a state he won by more than three-points in 2020, however, is not gone. Even those who said they support DeSantis running in 2024 wouldn’t bash the former president. Despite near-daily negative press over the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol that left at least five people dead, Republicans still seem unwilling to let go of Trump.
Diana Jimenez, a 25-year-old New Jersey resident who attended the Tampa Turning Points USA event, said she was impressed with DeSantis but wasn’t ready to support him for president.
“I was really close to him, I got to talk to him personally,” she said. “I don’t think he should go to D.C., he should just stay down here”
She said instead that Trump should run for president.
dear Mr. DeSantis governor or Florida, if you run against Mr. Trump in 2024 you will be taking valuable votes away from Trump which would not be good. this next election is not about you or Trump it is about we the people taking back our country from those lib. commie socialists who are destroying our beloved country. what you should do is join together with Donald as pres. and you backing him up as vp then in 4 years run for pres.. you guys will be an unstoppable force to be recond with and we will get our wonderful country back. we also, if we can, put an amendment in the constitution to expel anyone who is against, hates and says bad things about the USA
The only candidates for the POTUS in the past three elections have been McCain, Romney and Trump versus Obama, Clinton, and Biden. None have the character, integrity, and leadership abilities of those such as Washington, Adams, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, Eisenhower, and Reagan.
Let that soak in, because that is our fault, and will be our fate.
I voted for former President Trump against Clinton and Biden. And I will vote for whoever runs against the future Democrat/Socialist/Communist candidate. They believe not only that all is fair in love and war, but whatever leftist Democrats say and do. They lie, cheat, and steal continually. Their core value is that the end justifies the means. They are EVIL; LET ME REPEAT, EVIL.
However, former President Trump should NOT be our candidate for the next POTUS. He had many good programs and policies, but his time wasted on McCain put Biden in office and the Democrats in power in the House and Senate.
His criticism of McCain for being a POW in North Vietnam cost us the open Senate seat in Arizona and therefore the Democrats now control the Senate. Ten of my 1964 USAF Academy classmates (pilots) endured that North Vietnam POW torture and hell. Several others died in combat. Former President Trump never once put his life on the line in war.
And his recent negative comments about Colin Powell are another example of how to lose votes from those who served with and respect his service to our country.
Trump needs to read about the success of Reagan and Coolidge who focused on programs and never wasted time belittling their political opponents.
And why does former President Trump criticize his most loyal friends and staff who may disagree with him? He is not a god and all knowing, and his biggest faults are his lack of humility (PRIDE), big ego, failure to listen to others, attacks on people because they aren’t physically beautiful, and his wasted efforts to belittle his political opponents.
We will need former President Trump’s financial help and the support of those who voted for him in the past, and only by selecting persons like DeSantis, Haley, Tim Scott, Pence, John Kennedy, Rick Scott, and Mike Pompeo will our next POTUS and Vice POTUS be experienced and wise conservatives that can save our nation.
Regarding former President Trump, I admire many of his attributes, but he has too many negative political deficiencies.
Thanks from John C. Sowers
Hot Spring Village, AR
I am retired military, with over 30 years’ service. At minimum, two things you have said more than anger me.
First, I graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1964 and many of my classmates died in combat or were captured as POWs. You said that those captured were losers when you so criticized McCain. I know you have never served in the military and in a combat zone. So, as CS Lewis stated in his book Mere Christianity, you should keep your mouth shut about war, as you know nothing about it.
Second, you claim to be a Christian and have never had to ask for forgiveness. You are not Jesus, so you have sinned in mind and deed (rebelled against God and his teachings and commandments) so please stop your spiritual charade. You would do well to talk to Mr. Pence who seems to have his life priorities straight.
I could go on about your many past negative statements, but your advisors and family should have enough courage to tell you to stop your arrogant, vain, and pompous comments and behavior. We need leadership and that includes controlling your mouth.
I live in a political Red state, and many conservative Christians voted for Biden because of your continuous caustic comments and uncontrolled anger and behavior.
Hot Springs Village, AR
Mr. Sowers, Thank you for your service. I disagree with you, however, re: Donald J. Trump. Yes, he comes across as a schoolyard bully, a man with confidence in himself (not an all bad trait) and is too loquacious. Yet, he was the very man we needed (still do) at the time he held the office of POTUS. There is NO Comparison with our current Administration who is in place to destroy this wonderful Nation. The agenda and behavior of most of the people (men & women) holding seats of power leaves much to be desired. We are NOT to judge others’ Faith….but…we can/should inspect their FRUIT. I ask you~ are the majority of Americans better off under Biden than they were under Trump? You, I and millions know the answer to that is: NO WAY! I hope you will consider the points I’ve made, pray for discernment and throttle the vitriol you expressed of others.
Totally agree with Victoria! 2024 Trump President and DeSantis Vice President and then DeSantis for President in the next two terms!!!
That would surely be a winning combination, Dianne. Wonder if they’re thinking about it.