Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Wednesday that she believes Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has a chance of winning the 2024 GOP primary against former President Donald Trump if he focuses on “policy distinctions.”
McEnany, who worked as a Trump 2020 campaign adviser before joining Fox News as an on-air commentator in March 2021, told “Fox & Friends” that DeSantis should focus on his robust record of legislative accomplishments in the Sunshine State and avoid targeting Trump personally if he is to defeat her former boss.
“If I’m on the DeSantis campaign, I’m looking at this and I’m saying: ‘Where am I to the right of Trump? I’m to the right of him on Disney and corporate America and fighting for children. I’m to the right of him on abortion. I’m to the right of him on [COVID-19] vaccination mandates,'” McEnany said.
“Trump’s not for mandates, of course, but he did call himself the father of the vaccine,” she continued. “If I’m DeSantis, I’m going to ignore the name-calling, knock it in the mud and I’m going to cleave to the right on policy.”
DeSantis is expected to publicly announce his presidential campaign Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. EDT in a Twitter Spaces interview alongside Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The Spaces feature allows for a large group of people to participate in a voice conversation. The feature’s current iteration does not allow for video.
The Florida governor’s entry into the GOP field has been rumored for months and he is considered the party’s strongest candidate next to Trump, who is currently dominating the field.
Trump, according to an average of polls maintained by RealClearPolitics, has a significant lead over any Republican challenger, including DeSantis, who trailed in a distant second. Other major GOP candidates include entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and conservative talk show host Larry Elder.
Meanwhile, McEnany also revealed Wednesday that she spoke to a senior DeSantis campaign official about what Americans can expect from DeSantis’s campaign announcement.
“Apparently, the case he’s going to make is: ‘Things are upside down in America; sanity is in short supply; common sense has been an uncommon virtue; the truth is under assault, but the decline is a choice and success is attainable,'” McEnany said.
DeSantis won his reelection in Florida just six months ago by a stunning 19 percentage points—even as Republicans in many other states struggled. He also scored several major policy victories during the Republican-controlled Legislature’s spring session.
A Florida native with family roots in the Midwest, DeSantis studied at Yale University, where he played baseball. He would go on to Harvard Law School and become a Navy Judge Advocate General officer, a position that took him to Iraq and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Trump Hits Out At DeSantis
Aware of DeSantis’s draw, Trump has focused on undermining the Florida governor’s political appeal on multiple occasions. Trump and his team believe that DeSantis may be Trump’s only legitimate threat for the Republican nomination.
The Republican candidate that wins the GOP nomination will face President Joe Biden on the general election ballot in November 2024. According to many voters, mainly Republicans, the 80-year-old incumbent has pushed the nation too far left while failing to address critical issues America faces today, including inflation, illegal immigration, and surging crime rates.
On Wednesday, hours before DeSantis filed a formal notification with the Federal Election Commission that he is running for president, Trump unleashed a fury of criticism via social media, targeting everything from the governor’s electability to his personality and character.
“Ron DeSanctus can’t win the General Election (or get the nomination) because he voted to obliterate Social Security, even wanting to raise the minimum age to 70 (or more!), voted to badly wound Medicare, and fought hard and voted for a 23% ‘tax on everything’ sales tax,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social.
“He was, and is, a disciple of horrible RINO Paul Ryan, and others too many to mention,” he added. “Also, he desperately needs a personality transplant and, to the best of my knowledge, they are not medically available yet. A disloyal person!”
In several other posts, Trump criticized DeSantis’s character, noting that the former congressman had come to him in 2018 seeking his endorsement for governor.
“Look, Rob DeSanctimonious came to me asking for help,” he wrote in one post. “He was losing badly, by 31 points, to popular Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. He was getting ready to drop out of the race—Ran a terrible campaign!
“Ron told me he had one last chance, my Support & Endorsement, which Putnam, and everyone else, wanted also. I gave it to Ron, and the race was over. In one day, he went from losing badly, to winning by a lot. With 3 large Trump rallies, he won the general election in an upset. Disloyal!!!”
The Associated Press and Samantha Flom contributed to this report.