Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) fired his widest shots at former President Trump in an interview this week with Fox News’ Pierre Morgan, criticizing Trump’s leadership style and character as they brace for a possible showdown in the White House primary field. .
So far, DeSantis has remained low-key about Trump as he mulled over his expected entry into the 2024 presidential race. But Trump took the offensive on the Florida governor, calling him the nickname “Ron DeSanktimonius.”
“I don’t know how to spell sanctimonious,” DeSantis said in an interview with Morgan, which was detailed in New York Post. “I don’t really know what it means, but I like it, it’s long, it has a lot of vowels. We’ll go with it, it’s okay.”
He added: “I mean, you can call me whatever you want, as long as you also call me a winner, because that’s what we were able to do in Florida, put a lot of points on the board and really bring this state to new level.”
But DeSantis said the insults on social media were “background noise” for him, sparing him Trump’s patented confrontational style with opposition candidates.
“It’s not important for me to fight people on social media,” DeSantis said. “It does nothing for the people I represent. So we’re really focused on getting victories, day after day, and if I was involved in all these undercurrents, I wouldn’t be able to be an effective governor.”
While other declared and potential Republican presidential candidates, such as former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and current Senator Tim Scott, have largely shied away from questions about what makes them different from Trump, DeSantis, who is seen as the former president’s archrival for the Republican nomination, pointed to Trump’s leadership style as the difference between the two.
“I also think that just in terms of my approach to leadership, I get people in government who have the agenda of the people and share our agenda,” he said. “You bring your own agenda, you are gone. We just won’t have it. So the way we run the government, I think it’s not a daily drama, focus on the big picture and dot the board.”
DeSantis also said he would have handled the COVID-19 pandemic differently, arguing that he would have “fired” former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci, who has been one of the Trump administration’s most prominent voices on the virus and often diverged from the president about the need for more aggressive public health measures to prevent the spread of the disease.
DeSantis also reflected on his past rosy relationship with Trump. The former president helped lift DeSantis politically by backing him in his 2018 bid for Florida governor. DeSantis said Trump “changed his tune” when he was re-elected by a landslide last year.
“The main thing that happened that changed his mood was my victory for re-election,” he said, arguing that Republicans should not compete with each other, but instead wish success to other GOP officials.
“I want other Republicans to succeed,” DeSantis said. “I want them to outshine me. We are setting a great standard in Florida, let everyone play their own way.”
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The spat between Trump and DeSantis escalated earlier this week when the governor was asked to weigh potential charges against the former president who came to New York over his 2016 silence payment to Stormy Daniels.
“I don’t know what it’s like to pay a pornstar to keep quiet about some alleged affair. I just… I can’t talk about it,” DeSantis said on Monday.
Trump angrily responded on his Truth Social platform: “Ron DeSanktimonius will probably find out about FALSE ACCUSATIONS AND FAKE STORIES sometime in the future when he is older, wiser and more famous.”
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