“I mean, are you leading from the front or are you waiting for polls to tell you what position to take?” DeSantis asked.
“I led from the front on this. I reviewed the deal. I spoke with people I trusted, and I put out a statement saying where I stand on it, and I didn’t need to put my finger in the wind.”
The Times report notes other recent DeSantis remarks suggesting the Florida governor is becoming more aggressive in his attacks on Trump.
DeSantis described a Trump spending bill as “grotesque,” called the former president’s criticism of him over his dispute with Disney “bizarre,” and said Trump’s criticism of the Florida governor’s COVID-19 policy was “ridiculous.”
Shane Goldmacher and Nicholas Nehamas write for The Times that DeSantis is facing a tough balancing act, noting that the above-mentioned comments were made during a short news conference, not a campaign event, and that he never mentioned Trump’s name when speaking to voters at four Iowa stops.
Goldmacher and Nehamas write that “The two-pronged approach reflects the remarkable degree to which his pathway to the nomination depends on his ability to win over — and not alienate — the significant bloc of Republican voters who still like Mr. Trump even if they are willing to consider an alternative.”
DeSantis’ more confrontational approach has not gone unnoticed.
The Des Moines Register acknowledged the shift in an article published under the headline “5 times Ron DeSantis took some pointed jabs at Donald Trump in Iowa while campaigning,” which reports that DeSantis at a Tuesday night campaign event said, “Leadership is not about entertainment. It's not about building a brand.”
DeSantis promised that the days of him being a Trump campaign punching bag are no more.
“I am going to counterpunch,” he said. “I’m going to fight back on it.”
The Florida governor suggested that Trump’s policies on the pandemic, the economy, and immigration show that the former president has compromised his “America first” agenda.
“I do think, unfortunately, he’s decided to move left on some of these issues,” DeSantis said.
“And I think it’s me that’s just being true to kind of what we said we would do.”
The Florida governor’s advisors attribute DeSantis’ more assertive posture to him being a declared candidate.
“But it is a notable shift,” Goldmacher and Nehamas write for The Times.