Donald Trump is officially thinking about Ron DeSantis.
In the days after Ron DeSantis's big reelection win on Tuesday, the former president has taken several shots at the Florida governor. This is a clear sign that Trump is worried about running against DeSantis in a 2024 Republican primary.
"Ron DeSantis is playing games," Trump said in a long statement about DeSantis that was released Thursday night and was all about him. "The Fake News asks him if he'll run if President Trump runs, and he says, 'I'm only focused on the Governor's race; I'm not looking into the future.'" Well, that's not the right answer in terms of loyalty and class."
In the same statement, Trump says that when he backed DeSantis for governor in 2018, when he was still a congressman, he made DeSantis' political career. "Ron came to me in 2017 in desperate shape. He was politically dead. He had lost in a landslide to a very good Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, who was loaded with cash and had great poll numbers," said Trump, referring to the GOP gubernatorial primary in Florida. "Ron had low popularity, bad poll numbers, and no money, but he said he could win if I endorsed him."
Trump seems to care a lot about DeSantis right now. On Election Day, Trump seemed to be making a threat against the governor of Florida. "I would tell you things about him that won't be very nice," Trump told Fox News Digital. "I know more about him than anyone, except maybe his wife."
And on the last weekend of the 2022 campaign, Trump used the nickname "Ron DeSanctimonius" in his statement.
What does Trump do? I think of two things.
1) Trump is trying to scare DeSantis away from running for president in 2024. He is putting on a big show of strength so that DeSantis knows how bad it will be for him if he runs for the White House. Trump wants DeSantis to wonder if he really wants to run in a race that will be a lot like the last few days.
2) Trump can't do anything about it. If you are in the lead for the Republican presidential nomination, like Trump is, the best thing to do is to ignore everyone else who is talking about running. You are the favorite, so you don't need to fight back. But Trump is completely unable to carry out that political plan. He can't hide the fact that DeSantis makes him feel scared. Which, in turn, makes DeSantis look like a stronger candidate.
DeSantis has avoided any kind of back-and-forth with Trump, which was a smart move. If they both run, that will happen at some point. But DeSantis is right to enjoy the glow of his big re-election win and ignore Trump for now.
People who pay attention to this stuff think that Trump is crazy about DeSantis and that DeSantis doesn't care much about Trump. Which makes the former president look bad and weak.