During the campaign weekend, Donald Trump gave us all a preview of how he would fare against Ron DeSantis in the 2024 presidential race.
At a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, in his lead over the other 2024 Republican contenders, Trump called the Florida governor “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
It wasn’t an accident. Trump and DeSantis have been in a cold war for months.
“If I was going to run against him, I would win like I’m going to beat everybody else,” Trump told Yahoo Finance last October of DeSantis. “I think most people would leave, I think he would.”
Last month, Trump called it a “BIG MISTAKE” when DeSantis taped a call from Colorado Republican Senate candidate Joe O’Dea. O’Dea drew Trump’s ire in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash by saying he would “actively” oppose the former president if he were to run for the White House in 2024.
DeSantis, for his part, doesn’t give Trump the kind of salute the former president usually gets from GOP politicians. DeSantis did not seek Trump’s endorsement for his 2022 reelection bid, and over the weekend, the two men held rallies on the eve of Florida’s general election. (At his rally in Florida on Sunday, Trump avoided criticizing DeSantis.)
DeSantis, for all intents and purposes, appears to be using the momentum from Tuesday’s expected victory to launch his White House bid. He released a video last week that could easily double as a presidential announcement, and Politico reported that DeSantis had raised $200 million for his re-election bid and had more than $90 million in the bank.
So, assuming DeSantis runs for president, how would Trump fare against him?
Well, the moniker “DeSanctimonious” reflects Trump’s desire to take down Ted Cruz, his main rival for the 2016 Republican nomination.
During that race, Trump insisted that Cruz was honest, while the Texas senator portrayed himself as an honest broker and man of God, who was actually anything but.
“I think he’s going to go down,” Trump said of Cruz in February 2016. “I don’t think a guy can be – I’m a Christian – but you know Ted holds the Bible and then he lies about so many things.”
It appears, then, that Trump would be revamping the playbook he used against Cruz in a potential battle against DeSantis. The idea is to undermine the notion of DeSantis as a conservative principle by portraying him as someone who talks to ordinary people and thinks he’s better than them.
Trump, in this formulation, is real a man of the people, who would never dare to think that he is better than anyone. (Trump’s over-sized ego and self-importance seem to be overlooked in this equation.)
Whether and how DeSantis will run for president remains an entirely open question. But what is clear is that Trump has already begun to position himself against DeSantis, even before the 2022 election is over.