OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may be getting in gear for his own 2024 campaign for president because he and former President Donald Trump have begun swiping at each other.
The tension is mounting between the two Floridians with rumors of things each has said about the other, and some things that were said on the record, The New York Times reported.
Last week the Florida governor criticized the former president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in its early days.
“I never thought in February, early March, that (coronavirus) would lead to locking down the country,” he said to the hosts of the conservative podcast “Ruthless” which was recorded Thursday. “I just didn’t. I didn’t think that was on the radar.”
And in November he criticized Trump’s travel restrictions of China, arguing that they did not work.
“I was probably the first governor in January of 2020 to call for travel restrictions from China. I supported President Trump when he did that,” he said. “But we have to take a step back and acknowledge that those travel restrictions just didn’t work.”
But in an interview with One America News Network, the former president appeared to shade DeSantis after the Florida governor would not say if he received the COVID booster shot.
“I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get a booster?’ Because they had the vaccine and they’re answering like — in other words, the answer is ‘yes’ but they don’t want to say it, because they’re gutless,” he said.
But that it was Mr. DeSantis — a once-loyal member of the Trump court — wielding the knife made the tension about much more.
At its core, the dispute amounts to a stand-in for the broader challenge confronting Republicans at the outset of midterm elections. They are led by a defeated former president who demands total fealty, brooks no criticism and is determined to sniff out, and then snuff out, any threat to his control of the party.
That includes the 43-year-old DeSantis, who has told friends he believes Mr. Trump’s expectation that he bend the knee is asking too much. That refusal has set up a generational clash and a test of loyalty in the de facto capital of today’s G.O.P., one watched by Republicans elsewhere who’ve ridden to power on Mr. Trump’s coattails.
Already, party figures are attempting to calm matters.
“They’re the two most important leaders in the Republican Party,” Brian Ballard, a longtime Florida lobbyist who is connected to both men, said. He said he believes that the two men “will be personal and political friends for the rest of their careers.”
“DeSantis would be a formidable 2024 candidate in the Trump lane should Trump not run,” Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor, said. “He’s Trump but a little smarter, more disciplined and brusque without being too brusque.”
In a new book titled “Insurgency,” the former president was interviewed and took credit for DeSantis’ status in the Republican Party and in politics.
“Look, I helped Ron DeSantis at a level that nobody’s ever seen before,” he said in the book, arguing that DeSantis “didn’t have a chance” of winning without his help.
The former president is said to be annoyed that DeSantis has not ruled out campaigning against him for the Republican nomination in 2024.
In private conversations Trump is said to be dogging DeSantis as ungrateful with a “dull personality,” Axios reported.
“In the context of the 2024 election, he usually gives DeSantis a pop in the nose in the middle of that type of conversation,” a source who said he has spoken to Trump about DeSantis said.
“He says DeSantis has no personal charisma and has a dull personality,” the source said.
Another source said Trump’s annoyance with DeSantis is “that Ron DeSantis won’t say he won’t run [in 2024]. … The others have stated pretty clearly they won’t challenge him.”
The source said that Trump said something like, “What’s the big deal? Why won’t he just say he’s not going to run against me?”