Donald Trump is worried.
The former president has repeatedly lashed out at Ron DeSantis in the days following the Florida governor’s huge reelection win on Tuesday, a sure sign that Trump is nervous about the prospect of facing DeSantis in a 2024 Republican primary race.
“Ron DeSanctimonious is playing games,” Trump wrote in a long statement released Thursday night that was entirely focused on DeSantis. “The Fake News asks him if he’s going to run if President Trump runs, and he says, ‘I’m only focused on the Governor’s race, I’m not looking into the future.’ Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer.”
In that same statement, Trump says that he effectively made DeSantis’ political career when he endorsed the then-congressman for governor in the 2018 election cycle. “Ron came to me in desperate shape in 2017 – he was politically dead, losing in a landslide to a very good Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, who was loaded up with cash and great poll numbers,” argued Trump, referring to the GOP gubernatorial primary in Florida. “Ron had low approval, bad polls, and no money, but he said that if I would Endorse him, he could win.”
Trump has seemed particularly focused on DeSantis of late. On Election Day, Trump seemed to threaten the Florida governor. “I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering – I know more about him than anybody – other than, perhaps, his wife,” Trump told Fox News Digital.
And in the final weekend of the 2022 campaign, Trump trotted out the “Ron DeSanctimonius” nickname that he used in his statement.
What’s Trump up to? Two things, I think.
1) Trump is trying to scare DeSantis out of the 2024 race. He’s making a big show of force so that DeSantis is well aware how miserable it will be for him if he decides to run for the White House. Trump wants DeSantis to wonder whether he really wants to go through with a race that will look a lot like the last few days.
2) Trump can’t help himself. The smartest strategy if you are the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, which Trump is, is to ignore anyone and everyone who is also talking about running. You are the favorite – there’s no need for you to punch down! But Trump is utterly incapable of executing that political strategy. He is quite clearly threatened by DeSantis and can’t hide it. Which, in turn, actually makes DeSantis look stronger.
DeSantis has, smartly, avoided getting into any sort of back-and-forth with Trump. Assuming they both run, there will be a time for that. But DeSantis is right to bask in the glow of his massive reelection victory and, for the moment, ignore Trump.
The impression that leaves people paying attention to this stuff is that Trump is obsessed with DeSantis, while DeSantis isn’t terribly concerned with Trump. Which is a bad – and weak – look for the former president.