Trump's attack on "gutless" DeSantis is the opening salvo of the 2024 GOP primary
By trying to portray his competition as weak, Trump’s talking a page out of his 2016 playbook.
Donald Trump just fired the first shot of the 2024 Republican presidential primary. And, in a surprising twist, he’s going after the competition by highlighting how “gutless” their Covid messaging has been.
To be clear, Trump’s attack has less to do with his newfound enthusiasm for public health than it does with making others look weak. In that respect, one of the first moves of his likely 2024 campaign is reminiscent of his approach to the 2106 primary, when he insulted Ted Cruz’s family and bullied Marco Rubio so relentlessly that Rubio was reduced to making crude references to Trump’s nether regions — then enjoyed their support for next five years anyway. Gutless, indeed.
Polling shows that Trump is still backed by the majority of Republicans voters. No other candidate is within 40 points of him. But despite his comfortable position above the pack, he’s already going out of his way to kneecap the number two candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
According to longtime Trump reporter Maggie Haberman, DeSantis is “under [Trump’s] skin” in part because he “won’t say ‘the magic words,’ meaning won’t tell him he won’t run against him in 2024.” That annoyance was evident in a new interview Trump did with One America News Network (OAN).
Though Trump didn’t mention DeSantis by name, he criticized him for comments he made during a December 19 interview with Maria Bartiromo where DeSantis reacted as though he was asked to recite his bank account and Social Security numbers when she inquired about whether he’d been boosted.
“So, ah, I’ve done, whatever I did, the normal shot, and you know, that at the end of the day is people’s individual decisions of what they want to do,” DeSantis stammered, dodging the question before changing the topic, even though he very likely received a booster.
As I wrote in this newsletter at the time, the exchange illustrated the hopelessly confused state of public health messaging from Trumpy GOP governors who have come to view promoting vaccines as a symbolic submission to the libs, even while they’re vaccinated themselves. And Trump clearly sensed an opportunity to paint DeSantis as a phony when he was asked by OAN if he has any second thoughts about his recent pro-vaccine comments.