It was inevitable that Donald Trump would go after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ahead of the 2024 Republican presidential primaries. It was far less clear, however, how and when the former president would go on the attack.
For a while, it didn’t seem as if Trump’s heart was really in it. A few months ago, for example, he settled on a derisive nickname for the governor — “Ron DeSanctimonious” — which was underwhelming. In the weeks that followed, the former president tried to make a fuss about an 11-second video in which DeSantis praised former House Speaker Paul Ryan, but no one seemed to care.
Trump also targeted the governor’s Covid record in ways that didn’t make a lot of sense, before calling DeSantis a “RINO globalist” for reasons I can’t explain. Last week, the former president also said that the governor begged Trump for his endorsement in 2018 with “tears coming down from his eyes,” but most observers probably know that anytime the Republican references a conversation in which someone is privately crying, he’s invariably making up details that didn’t happen.
Given all of this, it seemed only natural to wonder whether Trump would ever get serious about launching an offensive against his former ally in Tallahassee. It was against this backdrop that the former president took matters in an ugly direction yesterday, by way of his social media platform:
- Trump posted a pair of items suggesting DeSantis partied with teenage girls during his time as a school teacher, “grooming” them with alcohol. The accusations appeared alongside unverified photographs, and both the claims and the legitimacy of the images remain unconfirmed.
- The former president claimed that DeSantis voted against a border wall while in Congress, adding, “Wow, if I knew that I wouldn’t have Endorsed him (and he would have had to quit the race, down 35 points!).”
- He promoted a baseless assertion that DeSantis’ 2018 election was fueled in part by Trump’s election conspiracy theories.
- Trump criticized DeSantis for endorsing the prosecution of Jan. 6 rioters.
In other words, we’ve come a long way since “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
The governor was asked about all of this earlier today, and he told reporters, “I spend my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against Joe Biden. That’s how I spend my time. I don’t spend my time trying to smear other Republicans.”
I suppose that’s as good a response as any, especially given the fact that DeSantis hasn’t yet launched a 2024 bid. But stepping back, it’s worth remembering that plenty of other Republicans have tried ignoring Trump’s antics, waiting for others to counterattack or for GOP voters to grow tired of his nonsense.
To date, that strategy has not worked.