Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday addressed former President Donald Trump’s recent attacks against him.
The governor has been floated as one of the key challengers Trump is likely to face in his bid to secure the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.
DeSantis interrupted a reporter who brought up Trump’s latest criticisms of him, including about his COVID-19 record.
“What I would just say is this: I roll out of bed, I have people attacking me from all angles, it’s been happening for many, many years,” DeSantis said during a press conference without specifically calling out Trump.
DeSantis added that people eventually get to assess an elected official’s performance during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic when they cast their votes.
“The good thing is, is that the people are able to render a judgment on that whether they reelect you or not,” he said. “And I’m happy to say, you know in my case, not only did we win reelection, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida.”
DeSantis won reelection in November by almost 20 percentage points.
Trump, on the contrary, was voted out of office in 2020 but never accepted the result, and has continued spreading election lies.
While DeSantis has refused to get drawn into whether he supports Trump’s false allegations of election fraud, he has previously campaigned for election deniers running for office, including defeated Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano. Far-right Mastriano was on the U.S. Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and tried to undo President Joe Biden’s win.
Trump has taken credit for DeSantis’ ascent to the governor’s office in Florida, and has claimed it would be “very disloyal” of DeSantis to challenge him in 2024. The former president also disputed polling showing DeSantis having an edge in some states.
Some GOP senators though appear supportive of a DeSantis candidacy.
“It looks to me like he’s polling well. I think we need some new blood and I think he’d probably qualify,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, according to The Hill.
DeSantis, who has yet to declare his intention to join the race, gained traction on the right over his handling of COVID-19.
But Trump disagrees, accusing the governor of “trying to rewrite history on COVID.”
“There are Republican governors that did not close their states,” Trump said Saturday, according to CNN. “Florida was closed for a long period of time.”
DeSantis was one of the last governors in the country to institute a statewide lockdown in April 2020. But, by September of that year, he ordered bars and restaurants to open and said he wouldn’t reinstate COVID-19 restrictions.
His state was also one of the first to open schools back up for in-person learning in August 2020 despite COVID-19 cases rising rapidly. There have been nearly 85,000 recorded COVID-19 deaths in Florida.
DeSantis last month said he is seeking to permanently ban mask and vaccine mandates in the state.
This comes as more candidates are expected to throw their hat in the ring.
Nikki Haley is reportedly expected to announce her bid for the presidency on Feb. 15, in Charleston, South Carolina, which could make her the first to openly challenge Trump.