DeSantis escalates war of words with Trump on campaign trail

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 5:55 PM EDT
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Florida’s governor is about to wrap his first week campaigning as a presidential candidate in the GOP primary. Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to finish up his “Great American Comeback” tour Friday evening in South Carolina.

Over the last four days, the governor has traveled to three early nominating states, hitting 12 cities across Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. It comes amid an escalating war of words with former president Donald Trump — a one-time ally of the governor.

Following DeSantis' kickoff campaign rally Tuesday in Des Moines, the governor finally seemed ready to punch back at his chief rival.

Speaking to reporters, the Republican affirmed he would start responding to Trump attacks and admonished the former president for not putting "mission first."

"He used to say how great Florida was," DeSantis said. "Hell, his whole family moved to Florida under my governorship."

From there, the two campaigns have waged war on social media, punching and counter-punching on COVID policy, immigration and even whether the governor is mispronouncing his last name.

DeSantis dismissed the comments when asked by a Fox News reporter.

"No, these ridiculous things," DeSantis said. "Listen, the way to pronounce my last name— winner."

Trump, too, made a stop in the Hawkeye State this week. He predicted a win in the forthcoming Iowa caucus and threw shade at DeSantis for touting access to an eight-year term. Trump's term was limited to just four years.

"You don't need eight years," Trump said while speaking at the Westside Conservative Breakfast in Urbandale. "You need six months. We can turn this thing around so quickly. If you need eight years — who the hell wants to wait eight years?"

DeSantis shot back later in New Hampshire, asking a reporter, "Why didn't [Trump] do it in his first four years?"

While in the Granite State, DeSantis also flipped an outspoken Trump supporter in the state Legislature.

Republican New Hampshire state Rep. James Spillane said he had Trump trust issues after the former president blasted his former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on social media.

"There is no loyalty in him," Spillane said. "He can't be trusted to stay loyal to the people who have supported him in the past."

But the big picture shows that Trump continues to dominate in early polling. He holds a double-digit lead in all three states the governor visited. DeSantis’ supporters expect that’ll change and told us recently they don’t plan to let up.

"We've already door knocked over 40,000 doors in Iowa," Ken Cuccinelli, founder of the DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down, said. "Thousands in New Hampshire, and we're gearing up in South Carolina and Nevada. That will just keep growing. We'll keep adding states to that as we bring in more and more and more DeSantis fans..."

It comes as at least two other Republicans were expected to enter the White House race next week. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Vice President Mike Pence are believed to be jumping in Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

As for DeSantis, he'll likely get back to his legislative duties next week and prepare for more out-of-state travel to early primary states, including Nevada on June 17.

Scripps Only Content 2023