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Are Trump’s Attacks Hurting or Helping DeSantis?

S.E. Cupp, Tribune Content Agency on

As the 2024 presidential election gets underway, Donald Trump is testing out a risky strategy.

He’s swinging hard and often at a competitor who hasn’t even gotten in the race yet.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has given every indication he will likely run — hosting donor retreats, visiting swing states and early voting states, and dress-rehearsing policy and messaging ideas in Florida — but he hasn’t announced. Sources close to him say he might even wait as long as June to launch his campaign.

That hasn’t stopped Trump from making this a two-man race between him and DeSantis. He’s virtually ignored another competitor, and one who’s actually announced, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. He’s said nothing about South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who also looks to be running. And he’s taken a few pot shots at his former vice president, Mike Pence. But no one has gotten more of Trump’s attention than DeSantis. In fact, he seems downright obsessed.

As Trump is wont to do, he’s been trying out nicknames for the governor — like Ron “DeSanctimonious,” or “DeSanctus” for short; “Shutdown Ron,” for implementing COVID-19 restrictions in Florida; and “Meatball Ron,” which Trump, inexplicably, says might just be “too crude” for his refined sensibilities.

This week he released a video in which he challenged the thing DeSantis is likely most known for and proud of — making Florida great again — saying, the Sunshine State where he’s long had a home “was doing great long before ‘Ron DeSanctus’ ” became governor there.

 

He also told reporters that he regretted endorsing DeSantis in 2018, saying “Remember this: If it weren’t for me, Ron DeSanctimonious would right now be working probably at a law firm, or maybe a Pizza Hut, I don’t know.”

And at a speech in Iowa Monday night, he unleashed his most aggressive attacks yet. He accused DeSantis of wanting to “decimate” Social Security. He called him a disciple of former House Speaker Paul Ryan, “a RINO loser who currently is destroying Fox [News],” according to Trump. And he said, derisively of course, that DeSantis reminded him of frequent Trump critic Sen. Mitt Romney. “So, I don’t think you’re gonna be doing so well here,” Trump warned.

The focus on the 44-year-old Florida governor is warranted — Trump and DeSantis are running neck and neck at 40% and 36% respectively among GOP voters according to a new CNN poll, with every other potential Republircan candidate stuck in single digits.

But the big question is, do Trump’s early attacks hurt DeSantis? Or do they actually help him?

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