The incipient Republican civil war between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis heated up on Friday, with news of how the former US president reportedly plans to attack the rightwing Florida governor in the coming 2024 presidential primary.
Citing “sources and friends familiar with Trump’s thinking”, the news website Axios reported that the former president plans to attack “Ron DeSanctimonious, as he delights in branding the governor”, in areas including perceived disloyalty, support for changes to Social Security and Medicare and his response to the Covid pandemic.
Trump recently denied road-testing another derogatory nickname, Meatball Ron, which he conveniently repeated in his denial.
Signs of heightened tension between the two Republican powerhouses also emerged in Florida earlier this week, when a group of Trump supporters including the far-right activist Laura Loomer, were told to leave an event promoting DeSantis’s new memoir, according to a police officer on the orders of the governor’s staff.
Loomer called DeSantis a “tyrant”.
On Friday, Axios quoted “a Trump confidant” as saying: “There’s a pre-Trump Ron and there’s a post-Trump Ron. He used to be a Reagan Republican. That’s where he comes from. He’s now awkwardly trying to square his views up with the populist nationalist feeling of that party.”
DeSantis did not comment. Axios pointed out, however, that earlier this week the governor told Fox News Trump’s attacks were “background noise”.
Trump and the former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley are the only major declared candidates for the Republican nomination, though DeSantis is among others widely expected to run.
Trump and DeSantis dominate polling, though Trump has recently enjoyed a boost, with healthy leads over DeSantis in multiple surveys.
Many Republicans oppose a third Trump candidacy after his chaotic presidency, two impeachments, incitement of the January 6 insurrection and poor record in successive midterm elections.
But many fear a split field could hand him the nomination without needing majority support, as was the case in 2016. Surveys have shown Haley and DeSantis splitting anti-Trump support.