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Ron DeSantis responds to Donald Trump’s recent attacks

Former President Donald Trump took aim at the leadership of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during the worst of the Covid-19 crisis during the recent campaign in New Hampshire and South Carolina. On Tuesday, Mr. DeSantis returned fire.

“When you’re an elected leader, you have to make all sorts of decisions,” Mr. DeSantis said. “You must steer this ship. And the good thing is that people can judge whether they will re-elect you or not.

“And I’m happy to say, you know, in my case, we not only won re-election, we won with the highest percentage of the vote any Republican gubernatorial candidate has in Florida history,” he continued. “We won by the largest margin of votes – more than 1.5 million votes – than any gubernatorial candidate has ever had in Florida’s history.”

Trump, who announced his third bid for the presidency last November, launched several different lines of attack on his potential archrival over the weekend.

He accused Mr. DeSantis of “trying to rewrite history” on how he handled the Covid-19 pandemic in Florida’s early months, claiming the state has been on lockdown for longer than Mr. DeSantis leads people to believe, and also said The Associated Press that running DeSantis for president would be a “great act of disloyalty” to him personally.

Florida and several other states such as Georgia all but lifted their Covid-related restrictions in the summer of 2020 and have relatively low vaccination rates, factors that some public health officials believe have led to thousands of excess deaths in those states.

Mr. DeSantis has not yet announced his plans for 2024, but it is widely believed that he is preparing to run for president and is the only potential candidate to have beaten Mr. Trump in several early state polls.

Mr. DeSantis’ popularity with Republican voters, notable for his attacks on voting rights, academic freedom, transgender Florida residents and the myriad cultural issues that revitalize the right, appears to have caught Mr. Trump’s attention.

The former president, who faces multiple legal challenges related to his actions during the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, is starting to ramp up his campaign after scheduling relatively few events over the holiday period.

His attacks on Mr. DeSantis mark a watershed moment in the relationship between two far-right politicians who were close allies when Mr. DeSantis narrowly defeated Andrew Gillum in his first Florida gubernatorial race in 2018.

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