Former President Donald Trump trashed Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) at the first rally of his 2024 presidential campaign in Waco, Texas, on Saturday night.
Trump hit DeSantis on a number of fronts, including Social Security, Medicare, and the coronavirus pandemic, but his harshest criticism came on the issue of loyalty.
Trump recounted that an emotional DeSantis approached him during Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial primary race against Adam Putnam and essentially begged for an endorsement to help land the nomination:
But I’m a loyalist, and when a man comes to me, tears in his eyes, he’s at almost nothing in the polls, and he’s fighting somebody that’s at 42 [percent], and he’s got almost $30 million in the bank. He’s at almost nothing, he’s got no cash, and I said, ‘I can’t give you an endorsement. There’s no way you can win. You’re dead.’
DeSantis responded, “Sir, if you endorse me, I’ll win. Please. Please, sir, endorse me,” according to Trump.
“So what happened is, I said, ‘Let’s give it a shot, Ron.’ And I endorsed him, and he became like a rocket ship,” Trump told a crowd of thousands. “Within one day, the race was over; he got the nomination.”
In the general election, DeSantis faced Democrat Andrew Gillum, who Trump noted was one of the “hottest in all of politics” at the time.
“Now [Gillum] turned out to be a crackhead, but I did rallies for Ron that were massive rallies, and they were very successful. So we got him the nomination. We then got him the election,” said Trump.
He then suggested he felt betrayed by DeSantis several years later:
But when you’re getting a guy, so he gets the nomination because of you; he wins the election because of you, two years later, the fake news is up there saying, ‘Will you run against the president? Will you run?’ And he says, ‘I have no comment.’ I say, ‘That’s not supposed to happen’… So I’m not a big fan.
Trump also dubbed DeSantis a “disciple” of former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), adding, “That’s why he wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare.”
Furthermore, Trump asserted that several Republican governors handled lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic “much better” than DeSantis and mocked his standing in the polls.
“They keep saying, ‘Oh, I think DeSanctus can do okay with farmers.’ I don’t think so. Based on polls, he’s not doing okay with anything,” he said.