- Looking ahead, Trump expected to make a “very big announcement” Nov. 15 at Mar-a-Lago
- On Election Day, Trump cast his ballot in Palm Beach and said he voted for DeSantis
The Pax Republicana in Florida was short-lived.
Just two days after an electoral sweep “for the ages,” former President Donspanld Trump fired spann spanngry stspantement attacking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as “average,” and the News Corp. empire that includes Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
The missive, so lengthy it required six installments on Trump’s Truth Socispanl plspantform, cut through the Trumpian universe, and appears to be the first shot in the brewing civil war between the GOP’s most dominant figure of the past decade and its rising star.
And it put the president’s bspanckers, in span stspante he now calls home and from where he has played GOP kingmaker, “stuck in the middle,” as a leading organizer of Trump rallies and street demonstrations bemoaned on Friday.
What happened:Trump fires spanngry missive spant ‘spanverspange Republicspann’ Ron DeSspanntis, sspanying he is clspanssless
Looking ahead:Former President Donspanld Trump to mspanke ‘very big spannnouncement’ Nov. 15 spant Mspanr-span-Lspango
“We got the greatest president ever attacking the greatest governor ever, and they live right here in Florida,” lamented Willy Guardiola, a longtime activist who said he is not choosing sides and remains loyal to both Trump and DeSantis.
Still, the divvying up of Trump World’s Who’s Whos had already begun among elected officialdom to the array of Trump clubs to rank-and-file voters in the wake of Tuesday’s election results.
Appearing on the Fox & Friends show, Newt Gingrich, a former GOP House Speaker who has ardently backed the former president, called DeSantis the “biggest winner” of the midterm vote. Gingrich said he expects the governor “will almost certainly become the rallying point for everybody in the Republican Party who wants to move beyond President Trump.”
From Election Day:Former president Donspanld Trump cspansts bspanllot in Pspanlm Bespanch; sspanys he voted for Gov. Ron DeSspanntis
In the Panhandle, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who spoke at the former president’s Miami rally on Sunday, said in an op-ed in Wednesday’s The Daily Caller that the “future” is with Trump in a race against, perhaps, President Joe Biden.
“You know how much better life was under President Donald Trump than Biden, you don’t need me to tell you that,” said Gaetz, who was on DeSantis’ transition team in late 2018. “It’s time now, though, to look to the future.”
One county GOP chairman: “I don’t want to see a battle …”
Trump’s statement exploded as Florida Republicans were still celebrating their electoral red tsunami, and just days of Trump’s widely expected launch of a comeback White House campaign this Tuesday at Mar-a-Lago.
He said DeSantis was an “average” Republican who Trump salvaged politically by endorsing him and holding rallies for him in 2018. He said DeSantis at the time was “politically dead” and faced ” losing in a landslide.”
In Trump’s telling, he rescued DeSantis. “And now, Ron DeSanctimonious is playing games!” Trump wrote in reference to the governor’s caginess on 2024 plans and employing his new nickname for him.
In Palm Beach County, Republicans and Trumplicans alike said the public lashing between the state’s two most formidable and popular Republicans is a no-winner.
“I don’t want to see that kind of battle in the Republican Party, they share the same base,” said Michael Barnett, chairman of the Republican Party in Palm Beach County.
Barnett, who does not believe DeSantis will run in 2024, said he met with Trump in New Jersey.
“I told President Trump, I’m running for re-election as chairman to help him win his second term,” Barnett said, adding he then told Trump. “You run for a second term, I’ll be there one way or another.”
Attacking DeSantis soon after a major GOP win in Florida could be the “worst thing you can do at this point,” said Jorge Garrido, the chairman of the Hispanic Vote of Palm Beach County.
Garrido said he isn’t sure how it would help Trump.
“He’s missing an opportunity to do a really strong comparison with Biden and Biden’s failures in foreign affairs by sitting there and creating headlines by attacking someone that’s in his own team, that hasn’t even said if he’s going to run for office and is the most popular politician in Florida right now,” Garrido said.
Guardiola said he wishes Trump and DeSantis would meet and have a discussion about their plans since rather than escalate the friction into a nonsensical feud.
He said DeSantis should wait until 2028. And he added that Trump should be in “total damage control” mode now as well.
“Anything that Trump says right now other than apologize and step up and be professional, nobody’s going to listen to,” Guardiola added. “Trump has to take care of damage control right now and honor the greatest governor in the country.”
Across Florida, a Trump-DeSantis knife fight a “disaster for all of them”
If GOP leaders are forced to pick a side it will be “a disaster for all of them” said Ron Filipkowski, a longtime Sarasota County Republican leader who recently left the party.
“It’s the last thing they want to do,” Filipkowski added. “I’m sure they’re pretty terrified.”
Trump has shown he’s willing to punish anyone who sides against him, Filipkowski noted, while DeSantis also has proven willing to get involved in GOP primaries.
“If you try to force a candidate in Florida or an elected official in Florida to publicly choose between DeSantis and Trump… I just think the wounds and the damage that’s done will be irreparable in that scenario,” Filipkowski said.
Much of that depends on whether DeSantis actually runs for president. But even now, Republicans are in a tough position and don’t seem eager to weigh in on the fracas.
Florida GOP Chair Joe Gruters did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
But Anthony Sabatini, a former Republican state House member and one of the most ardent MAGA leaders in Florida, said he backs Trump even though he is “not seeing the controversy.”
“DeSantis was very bad on COVID his first 5 months, that’s a fact,” Sabatini said in a text message. “Trump also single-handedly made DeSantis governor — that’s not disputed.”
Florida GOP Vice Chair Christian Ziegler avoided weighing in directly on Trump’s comments in a text message.
“President Trump did a great job as president. Governor DeSantis has done an outstanding job as Governor,” Ziegler wrote. “Florida is confirmed as the center of the Republican universe, but 2022 still isn’t wrapped up.”
Ziegler said he is focused on the GOP’s efforts to win U.S. House and Senate majorities and the still undecided races in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia.
“2024 will play itself out over time,” he added.
DeSantis to join McCain, McConnell, and Pence on Trump hall of dishonor?
The attack on DeSantis capped a day that started with a resurgence of Trump’s feud with his former vice president, Mike Pence.
Pence is just the latest in a lengthening line of Republicans that have elicited Trump’s wrath over a purported act of disloyalty, or for simply refusing to defer to the ex-president’s wishe. They include the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is now on the board of directors of Fox Corp.
On Wednesday, various news media outlets reported on excerpts from Pence’s new autobiography, .
The excerpts detailed, from Pence’s point of view, the falling out with Trump in late December and early January that led to the violence at the U.S. Capitol on the day when electoral votes were to be counted and Biden was to officially be elected president.
“You’ll go down as a wimp,” Pence quoted Trump saying to him on Jan. 6. “If you do that, I made a big mistake five years ago!”
The break between the two highest elected officials in the United States at the time, in part, was triggered by a commercial aired by the anti-Trump group, The Lincoln Project. Pence called the ad irresponsible for stating that his ceremonial role in certifying the electoral votes would be “putting the final nail in the coffin” in Trump’s presidency.
Rick Wilson, Lincoln Project co-founder, said Friday the group did the ad to “rattle Trump and depress his people” but that the idea that set the course for the Jan. 6 attack strains credulity.
“These people are so delusional and so desperate not to piss Trump off any further, that they will come up with anything,” Wilson said of Pence’s rationalization of the ad. “It’s Pence once again trying to find some way skate up the middle and somehow keep Trump’s base from destroying him when he runs for president.”
Wilson said DeSantis better watch out because he is next.
“He won’t be able to resist the lure of trying to run for president but Trump will start damaging, he will start beating on him, he will start humiliating him,” Wilson said.
Wilson drew the analogy to another Florida governor, Jeb Bush, who ran for president in 2016.
Wilson points out that Bush also was the “successful conservative governor of Florida” who “all the money people wanted to run.” Plus, he said, Bush was seen as the “guy who had good ideas and could expand the party.”
“It didn’t matter,” Wilson said after Trump called him “low energy” and then routed him on the way to the nomination presidency. “DeSantis doesn’t realize it yet but he is Jeb Bush.”