Former President Trump was in his element on Saturday night as he branded his Republican rival, Ron DeSantis, ‘a wounded falling bird.’
Beneath a sign that read ‘Florida is Trump Country’, about half an hour into his speech, Trump told how DeSantis came to him in 2018 begging for his endorsement.
‘He went from very little to having a lot – and I got him elected,’ Trump crowed.
‘I endorsed him and be became a rocket ship in 24 hours. Then we got him past the election because we did some giant Trump rallies for him. I told him, you’re so far behind that if George Washington and Abraham Lincoln came back from the dead and endorsed you, you couldn’t win.
Former President Donald Trump mocked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during Florida’s annual Republican summit, dubbing him ‘a wounded bird falling from the sky’
Beneath a sign that read ‘Florida is Trump Country’, about half an hour into his speech, Trump told how DeSantis came to him in 2018 begging for his endorsement
“Tears were flowing from his eyes. And I said, sure. “I need your endorsement sir! I need your endorsement, please! I need your freaking endorsement, please!”
‘Four years later he’s asked “Are you going to run against the president?”
‘He said, “I have no comment!”, which means he’s going to run, to me.
‘I said, let’s hit him hard right now. My people said, “Sir, don’t hit him,”‘ Trump told the audience of DeSantis.
‘”He’s a Republican.” I said, “I don’t care if he’s a Republican.” And we hit him hard and now he’s like a wounded falling bird from the skies,’ Trump said to laughter from the audience.
‘We’re going to win the Florida primary for the third straight time, and we’re going to win the state by a landslide next November,’ Trump told the boisterous crowd on Saturday evening.
Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis alo addressed attendees
DeSantis was initially expected to be Trump’s top rival after winning reelection as governor by a huge margin last November – but DeSantis has struggled since he launched his campaign in May and is a distant second now
It was a show of strength for Trump in a state where DeSantis has controlled state politics since Trump’s endorsement in 2018 on his way to winning the first of two gubernatorial elections.
Now, two months before the first balloting in the 2024 presidential nomination process, the two men have an increasingly personal and crude rivalry.
The second-term governor faces the reality that Trump has dominated national Republican politics since he launched his first White House bid in 2015, when DeSantis was a little-known Florida congressman.
DeSantis, Trump and other candidates signed qualifying paperwork on Saturday for Florida’a March 2024 primary.
The primary could prove critical, but only if the governor or other candidates can diminish Trump’s strength in the early nominating states that come before.
Trump’s endorsement in 2018, pictured above, saw DeSantis on his way to winning the first of two gubernatorial elections
Trump’s presence loomed large, and he didn’t hold back in his critique of DeSantis, stating, ‘I don’t care if he’s a Republican; we hit him hard.’
Trump has for months ripped DeSantis as disloyal for running against him
Former President Donald Trump, center, is surrounded on stage by supporters at the Republican Party of Florida Freedom Summit in Kissimmee, Florida
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves to attendees, while carrying his son Mason, after speaking at the Republican Party of Florida Freedom Summit
‘Weakening DeSantis’ standing in Florida is a clear objective of the Trump campaign,’ explained Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who worked on the 2016 presidential campaign of Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
‘His entire message is built on the idea that he is a terrific governor. When Republican officials in Florida are choosing Trump over DeSantis, it really weakens the core of DeSantis’ pitch.’
This coming week, DeSantis will join several candidates in Miami for the third Republican debate.
Trump will skip, again, and hold a competing event in the nearby suburb of Hialeah.
This coming week, DeSantis will join several candidates in Miami for the third Republican debate. Trump will skip, again, and hold a competing event
Trump has for months ripped DeSantis as disloyal for running against him.
The Trump campaign also has mocked DeSantis’ laugh and interactions with voters.
DeSantis has pointed to Trump’s gaffes, suggesting he no longer has the same energy he once did.
DeSantis was initially expected to be Trump’s top rival after winning reelection as governor by a huge margin last November – but DeSantis has struggled since he launched his campaign in May and is a distant second now.
A Des Moines Register poll published last Monday saw him tied in Iowa with Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who served as U.N. ambassador under Trump.
Both stood at 16 percent, 27 percentage points behind the former president.