'A great balancing act': DeSantis' response to potential Trump arrest an early '24 test
Published in Political News
MIAMI — The looming indictment of Donald Trump on charges he paid hush money to an adult film actress has put Ron DeSantis in an awkward position, forced to choose between joining most Republicans in defense of a political rival and taking advantage of a damaging criminal allegation.
He tried to have it both ways Monday — and in doing so showed he might be stuck in a political dilemma for the foreseeable future.
Florida’s Republican governor blasted the investigation by Manhattan’s Democratic district attorney, saying during a question-and-answer session in Panama City that the potential charges were politically motivated and “fundamentally wrong.”
But a politician widely expected to run for president later this year also sought to distance himself from the nature of the allegations against the man who would be his top competition for the GOP nomination.
“Look, I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,” DeSantis said, amid laughter from some in the audience. “I can’t speak to that.”
Moments later, DeSantis again mentioned “porn star hush-money payments,” and added that the “real victims” of the charges were the citizens of New York and other areas with liberal prosecutors. He also denied that the state would resist any sort of extradition of Trump from Florida to New York, as some of the former president’s allies have urged, saying he didn’t want to get involved in a “manufactured circus.”
It wasn’t explicit criticism of Trump, but DeSantis’ answer Monday stood apart from how other GOP leaders — including former President Mike Pence and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy — have responded to reports about potential indictments.
And it highlighted how the governor, even before he officially becomes a candidate, is seeking to both assure rank-and-file Republican voters sympathetic to Trump that he thinks the charges are bogus while simultaneously still quietly making the case that the former president shouldn’t be the GOP’s next presidential nominee.
“It’s a great balancing act that everyone in the race is going to have to deal with,” said Todd Reid, a veteran GOP strategist. “The president is still quite popular among the base and primary voters, but yet folks are in this race because they want to be an alternative to him. It’s going to be a struggle.”
DeSantis’ answer received Trump’s attention later Monday, when he lashed out at his one-time supporter with an ominous warning.
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