Former President Donald Trump, who has already announced he is running for president in 2024, is not happy about the prospect of facing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in the race.
“When I hear he might run, I consider that very disloyal,” Trump told reporters Saturday.
Trump sought to take credit for DeSantis’ ascent to the governor’s office and questioned polling showing DeSantis defeating him in some of the early primary states.
DeSantis has been in the governor’s office since 2019, and won reelection in November by almost 20 percentage points.
A poll published Thursday by the University of New Hampshire shows Trump trailing DeSantis by 12 percentage points among likely voters in the GOP’s presidential primary in the state.
“He won’t be leading, I got him elected,” Trump said, according to Politico.
Trump also took issue with DeSantis’ COVID-19 approach, accusing the governor’s team of “trying to rewrite history.”
“There are Republican governors that did not close their states,” Trump said, according to CNN. “Florida was closed for a long period of time.”
However, DeSantis’ COVID-19 handling was exactly what earned him praise from the right.
In April 2020, DeSantis became one of the last governors in the country to order a statewide lockdown after speaking to Trump, according to NPR. But by September of that year, he vowed to not reinstate restrictions, ordered a full reopening of bars and restaurants in the state (defying guidance from public health officials), and banned fines for those who refused to wear a mask or maintain social distancing.
The Florida governor ordered schools to reopen for in-person learning in August 2020 even as COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing.
DeSantis, in recent months, has questioned the efficacy of lifesaving COVID-19 shots, given a platform to vaccine skeptics, and even suggested permanently banning COVID-19 mandates.
Trump is also preparing for challenges from other Republicans, including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who also served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in his administration.
“I talked to her for a little while, I said, ‘Look, you know, go by your heart if you want to run,’” Trump said, adding that Haley had previously said she wouldn’t run in 2024 if it meant challenging Trump.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday he is also mulling a run.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Vice President Mike Pence are also thought to be weighing a presidential bid.
This weekend Trump held events in South Carolina and New Hampshire, marking his first campaign appearances since he announced his candidacy in November.
“I’m more angry now and I’m more committed now than I ever was,” he said.