The rivalry between Trump and DeSantis has become more personal and raw as the GOP candidates head to Florida


KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — For Saturday PM sessions

previous president Donald Trump He is expanding his support in Florida as he seeks to bury presidential ambitions Governor Ron DeSantis In their common country of origin.

Trump has in recent days been endorsed by U.S. Senator Rick Scott and state legislator Randy Fine, a longtime ally of DeSantis who has advised him on Israel. He already did it He received the support of the majority of Republicans in the state In Congress. More Florida Republicans may soon follow.

DeSantis remains a powerful governor Policies that conservatives have long sought The traditional swing state has moved increasingly to the right. But with the first primary nominating contests looming, DeSantis is well behind in the 2024 race and is battling a Trump campaign focused not just on winning the nomination, but on embarrassing him in his state and nationally.

“Weakening DeSantis’ standing in Florida is an obvious goal of the Trump campaign,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who worked on the 2016 presidential campaign of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “His entire message is based on the idea that he is a great governor. “When Republican officials in Florida choose Trump over DeSantis, it weakens the core of DeSantis’ pitch.”

Trump and DeSantis will be among the GOP candidates who will speak Saturday at the Florida Freedom Summit, hosted by the state Republican Party at an Orlando-area convention center. Scott, Fine and four members of the US House of Representatives who have already declared their support for Trump are also scheduled to speak.

Four days later, DeSantis will join several candidates for the third Republican debate in Miami. Trump will skip the debate again to hold his own event in the nearby suburb of Hialeah with its own “spin room,” competing with the traditional post-debate gathering where reporters conduct interviews after debates.

DeSantis was initially expected to be Trump’s biggest challenger after winning re-election by a large margin last November He struggled Since he launched his election campaign last May. He is in second place by a large margin in the race. A Des Moines Register poll published Monday showed him tied in Iowa with Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who served as UN ambassador under Trump. Their respective percentage reached 16%, a difference of 27 percentage points from the previous president.

Trump has called DeSantis disloyal for running against him and his campaign has for weeks mocked DeSantis’ laughter and interactions with voters. DeSantis responded by pointing out Trump’s gaffes Pointing out that the former president no longer has the same energy that he did before.

Their altercation in recent days has turned more raw. Trump allies boosted headlines suggesting that DeSantis wears lifts in his shoes. DeSantis told Newsmax that if Donald Trump “can call the balls to come to the debate, I’ll be wearing a boot on my head.”

The DeSantis Super PAC then began selling a line of golf balls labeled “Ron DeSantis Has a Pair.” Trump spokesman Stephen Cheung responded: “Ron DeSantis is so broke that he needs to sell his balls to strangers in order to (earn) rent and keep the lights on.”

The campaign’s references to male anatomy are reminiscent of another failed bid from Florida against Trump. Rubio joked in 2016 about Trump’s “small hands” in response to Trump’s personal attacks. He will He withdrew from the race after losing the Florida primary.

Members of the State party It gave Trump a symbolic victory in September, when they voted against requiring Florida primary candidates to pledge their support to the eventual nominee in order to run in the election next March. Trump has refused to take a similar pledge required of candidates to participate in the Republican national debates.

Joe Gruters, the former state party chairman and one of the few Republican lawmakers in Florida to support Trump, said he expects there will be additional endorsements from Florida officials, but stressed the risks faced by those who choose to stand against DeSantis, given that he will do so. Remain governor for the next three years.

“It takes real courage for any member to flip out at this point or come out publicly,” he said, as state lawmakers must “go back and serve their communities.” He accused DeSantis of “retaliating” against those who chose to support Trump.

As a result, he said, “a lot of people are still afraid to go out.”


Barrow reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed from New York.

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