On the campaign trail over the weekend, Donald Trump gave us all a preview of how he would run against Ron DeSantis in the 2024 presidential race.
In a riff on his lead over the other potential Republican 2024 contenders at a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, Trump referred to the Florida governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
Which was not an accident. Trump and DeSantis have been in something of a cold war for months now.
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“If I faced him, I’d beat him like I would beat everyone else,” Trump told Yahoo Finance in October of last year of DeSantis. “I think most people would drop out, I think he would drop out.”
Last month, Trump labeled it a “BIG MISTAKE” when DeSantis recorded a robocall for Colorado Republican Senate nominee Joe O’Dea. O’Dea had drawn Trump’s ire by saying in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash that he would “actively” oppose the former president if he ran for the White House in 2024.
DeSantis, for his part, has not paid the sort of obeisance to Trump that the former president is used to receiving from GOP politicians. DeSantis did not seek Trump’s endorsement for his 2022 reelection bid and, over the weekend, the two men held dueling rallies on the eve of the general election in Florida. (At his Florida rally on Sunday, Trump avoided criticizing DeSantis.)
DeSantis looks, for all the world, like he is gearing up to use the momentum garnered from his expected win on Tuesday to launch a White House bid. He released a video last week that could easily have doubled as a presidential announcement and Politico noted that DeSantis raised $200 million for his reelection bid and had more than $90 million in the bank.
So, assuming DeSantis runs for president, how would Trump run against him?
Well, the “DeSanctimonious” nickname actually hearkens back to how Trump sought to bring down Ted Cruz, his main rival for the 2016 Republican nomination.
In that race, Trump insisted that Cruz was sanctimonious – insisting that while the Texas senator portrayed himself as a honest broker and a man of God, he was actually something short of that.
“I think he’s going to go down,” Trump said of Cruz in February 2016. “I think a guy can’t be – I’m a Christian – but you know Ted holds up the Bible and then he lies about so many things.”
It would seem, then, that Trump would rehash the playbook he used against Cruz in his potential fight against DeSantis. The idea is to undermine the notion of DeSantis as a principled conservative by portraying him instead as someone who talks down to average people and thinks he’s better than them.
Trump, in this formulation, is the real man of the people, who would never dare think he is better than anyone. (That Trump has a super-sized ego and routinely casts himself as special seems to go unnoticed in this equation.)
Whether and how DeSantis runs for president remains an entirely open question. But what’s clear is that Trump is already beginning to position himself against DeSantis – even before the 2022 election is over.