Almost a year into Joe Biden’s presidency, many Republicans are afraid to say a word against former President Donald Trump — and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Trump critic turned obsequious Trump sycophant, recently told Fox News that having a “working relationship” with Trump should be a litmus test for Republicans in Congress. But one prominent MAGA Republican who is showing more willingness to openly criticize Trump is far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis was never a Never Trump conservative. When he narrowly defeated former Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum in Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial race, DeSantis ran on a stridently MAGA platform — and he is still stridently MAGA as he seeks reelection in 2022. But journalist Charlotte Klein, in an article published by Vanity Fair on January 17, stresses that former allies Trump and DeSantis now find themselves increasingly at odds.
“Donald Trump’s mounting discord with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is increasingly spilling out into the open,” Klein explains. “The former president and his erstwhile protege have recently taken public swipes at each other over pandemic-related issues, quips that are perhaps the beginning of an anticipated showdown between the two Republicans over their 2024 intentions.”
Much of the growing tension between Trump and DeSantis has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. While Trump is now encouraging Americans to get vaccinated for COVID-19, DeSantis is afraid of offending anti-vaxxers and has been evasive when asked by reporters whether or not he has received a booster shot. Trump, obviously referring to DeSantis, attacked this type of behavior as “gutless” during an interview with right-wing One America News.
“While the relationship between DeSantis and Trump has reportedly been strained for some time, their tension has largely played out in private,” Klein observes. “Now, with the midterm elections looming and the 2024 lineup taking shape, DeSantis — who is up for reelection this year — seems to be establishing himself as someone unafraid to take on the man who helped make him.”
Klein notes that New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, in an article published on January 14, argues that DeSantis is trying to set himself apart from Trump by pandering to anti-vaxxers.
Chait wrote, “It is telling that of the many failings DeSantis could cite by Trump, he is seizing on the former president’s initial willingness to do anything at all about the pandemic…. DeSantis may or may not actually be more delusional on COVID than Donald Trump, but it is a revealing commentary on the state of their party that he sees his best chance to supplant Trump as positioning himself as even crazier.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Trump will run for president in 2024, or whether or not DeSantis will.
“DeSantis has not said whether he plans to run for president in 2024, but is considered a likely contender,” Klein observes. “And unlike other Trump disciples, he has not said that he won’t run if Trump does.”