Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is shadowboxing while former President Donald Trump is going in for the knock-out punch even before the fight officially begins.
The contrasting styles of the leading contenders in the 2024 Republican presidential primary race were evident in speeches on successive nights before the 2023 North Carolina Republican Convention.
While DeSantis alluded to Trump without mentioning the former president’s name during his 45-minute address June 9 in the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, Trump went after the governor by name—several names actually, including “DeSanctimonious” and “DeSanctis”—during his 90-minute speech the following night.
“He’s heading south quickly, no personality. You got have a personality to win,” Trump said, referring to polls that put him far ahead of DeSantis and the other 10 declared GOP presidential hopefuls.
Speaking four hours after addressing the Georgia GOP Convention 340 miles south in Columbus, during the North Carolina “Grand Old Party Dinner,” Trump said DeSantis is “changing his name, you know, and that’s ‘Dee-Santis.’ You don’t change your name in the middle of the campaign.”
Earlier on Saturday, Trump’s former vice president and 2024 Republican presidential primary rival Mike Pence addressed the conclave during a “First in Freedom Lunch.”
Pence criticized the Department of Justice (DOJ) for filing charges against his former boss but told attendees, to a tepid response, “Anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States.”
DeSantis essentially said the same thing the night before without addressing the 49-page indictment filed June 8 against Trump in U.S. District Court in Miami, Florida, that outlines 37 alleged criminal counts, including 31 purported violations of the Espionage Act, allegations of obstruction, and making a false statement.
DeSantis never mentioned Trump in his speech during the convention’s “Old North State Dinner,” but was most certainly referencing the former president’s performance during the pandemic, in failing to build his promised border wall, and in backing flawed candidates during the 2022 midterms that stymied the touted “red wave.”
“We have a task in front of us to shake the culture of losing that has infected the Republican Party in recent years,” he said. “We were supposed to have a massive ‘red wave’ in 2022. Biden is the most unpopular president that we have seen in years. We had a ‘red wave’ in Florida and some other states, but we had huge disappointments across-the-board.”
Key Battleground State
North Carolina is a purple state with 15 electoral votes. It is led by Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper with Republicans holding majorities in both state legislature chambers.
The North Carolina GOP will send 75 delegates to the August 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Who those delegates nominate will be determined during the state primaries, tentatively set for March 5, 2024.
The North Carolina GOP supported Trump in 2016 and 2020. Trump won the state in both general elections as well, both times by narrow margins, including by 1 percent in 2020.
The North Carolina GOP has also backed Trump in censuring then-U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) for voting to convict him in the Senate’s 2021 impeachment trial.
Who ultimately wins the crucial swing state will be determined by independents and non-affiliated voters, who constitute nearly 40 percent of North Carolina’s electorate. As of 2022, 35 percent of the state’s voters are registered Democrats and 30 percent are registered Republicans.
Trump said only he among the dozen declared GOP presidential hopefuls can withstand the pressure from Democrats and the “rotten political class” to “make America great again.”
“They’ll go after that person and that person will not be able to withstand the fire and I know all of” the other candidates, he said. “They keep coming and coming and coming and … another person in my position, they wouldn’t be able to handle it, they wouldn’t be able to take it because you’re dealing with crazy lunatics.”
DeSantis recounted how he ended lockdowns during the pandemic and drew heated criticism across the country by challenging National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci’s policies, who he would have fired.
“Leadership is about doing what’s right when you have intense opposition, when people are throwing arrows at you. Sometimes, you have to stand alone,” he said. “I will tell you this, at the end of the day, leadership is not entertainment, it’s not brand-building. Leadership is about delivering results for the people you represent.”
DeSantis said if elected, he will finish the border wall that Trump started.
“I will finally be the one to bring the issue of our southern border to a final conclusion, I am sick of hearing about it. I’m sick of the empty promises. I’ve been hearing about the border all my adult life. We are going to shut the border down. We are going to marshal all resources, including the military, to construct a border wall. We will end mass migration into this country, and we are going to hold the Mexican government and Mexican drug cartels accountable for the carnage they have caused it our country.”
Trump said he will finish the wall to protect the nation’s southern border, noting that under his policies, immigration was a non-issue in the 2020 election. But, he added, he’s more concerned about enemies from within the nation rather than those beyond.
“I stand before you today as the only candidate who has what it takes to smash this corrupt system and to truly drain the swamp. And I’m the only one that they don’t want to do it, again,” he said.
He Said, He Said
Trump said that without his endorsement, DeSantis would never have defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum in Florida’s 2018 governor’s race.
“Remember that when he came to me? He had virtually no … he was dying. As the expression goes, he was dead. I said, ‘George Washington could endorse you. It wouldn’t matter.’ I said, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’ I endorsed him. He went up like a rocket ship.”
Three years later, Trump said he watched a news report where DeSantis was asked if he was planning to run for president.
“They said, ‘Would you run against the president?’ And he said, ‘I have no comment.’ That means he’s going to run. I said I got this guy in [the governor’s office] and he said he’s going to run. And [since] then, I haven’t been very nice.”
Trump said that “unlike ‘Ron DeSanctimonious,’” who he called a “disciple of [former House Speaker] Paul Ryan,” he would not allow cuts to Medicaid and Social Security, nor call for a 23 percent national sales tax to replace income taxes.
DeSantis, while serving three terms in Congress before his 2018 gubernatorial election, was among GOP fiscal hawks who bandied such proposals about. Such proposals are not part of his presidential platform.
“I would always protect Medicare and Social Security for our great senior citizens,” Trump said. “You earned it. There are many, many things we can cut. There will be no national sales tax of 23 percent.”
Trump claimed that polls show him leading DeSantis by 28 points in the governor’s own state.
“People are not happy with him and he’s a lousy campaigner. He was looking for a job and when I endorsed him. It was like magic was like he was a rocket ship. But I believe in loyalty and you know, it’s just very disloyal.”
DeSantis, who is 44 while Trump turns 77 on June 14, called himself “an energetic executive” and said that as a father of three children 6-years-old and younger, he understands the pressures on young families and recounted his leadership in making Florida “the top state for parents’ rights” in education.
“We will take on issues head on. We will lead not by words. We will leave by deeds,” he said.
“When we tell you we will do something, we are not making idle promises. I don’t make idea promises. When I tell you I am going to do something, buckle your seatbelts. That is the attitude we have to have if we are going to save this country.”
From The Epoch Times