“You’ve got the Sunday before Election Day totally hijacked by Trump parachuting in on Trump Force One taking up the whole day,” said a longtime Republican consultant who is close to the governor. “No Republican could go to a DeSantis event that day. None. And DeSantis won’t be here? This is big.”
Another person who is influential in DeSantis’ world said it was “an elbow to Ron’s throat” and blamed Trump advisers.
An adviser for Trump disputed any conflict between the former president and DeSantis, who could be Trump’s potential 2024 rival for the GOP presidential nomination if both men run for the White House. Trump’s Florida rally, the adviser said, is part of a four-city tour that the former president is making ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
“This is an event President Trump is holding as part of a series of stops he is making for Republican Senate candidates,” the Trump adviser said. “It came after he and Senator Rubio spoke directly.”
The people were granted anonymity to freely discuss the matter.
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich did not return a request seeking comment. A spokesperson for DeSantis declined to comment.
Trump and DeSantis are in a cold war of sorts, with both possible competitors publicly downplaying any conflict. But there have been signs that their relationship is strained, including DeSantis declining to ask for the former president’s endorsement this year and Trump over the winter calling politicians who wouldn’t say if they got the Covid-19 booster “gutless” — a comment widely viewed as being directed at DeSantis, who vacillated on the issue when asked.
And Trump has privately questioned DeSantis’ loyalty while also raising questions about whether DeSantis is personable enough to win over voters.
Trump has often taken credit for DeSantis’ success, claiming his endorsement of the Florida governor ahead of the 2018 GOP primary against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam pushed DeSantis over the edge. Trump has endorsed many other Florida Republicans on this year’s ballot including Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
DeSantis has greatly expanded his political clout outside of Florida. He’s raised well over $100 million from small-dollar donors across the country and has even attracted donations from some of Trump’s donors.
The governor has also held rallies for Republican candidates in key swing states like Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, while Republican Party of Florida mailers touting the Florida governor have landed in mail boxes in places like Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina.
Last weekend, DeSantis also endorsed Colorado Republican Senate candidate Joe O’Dea, a candidate Trump has called “stupid” because of his moderate stances on things like abortion and gun control.
“DeSantis’ endorsement helped after the Trump slam,” said Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University and co-chair of the Western Conservative Summit, an event whose straw poll DeSantis won earlier this year. “It will keep Republicans engaged.”
More broadly, Trump’s visit comes as Republicans appear poised to dominate Florida’s 2022 midterm election cycle. The upcoming Trump-Rubio event in Miami-Dade County is particularly noteworthy because the south Florida county has long been a stronghold for Democrats but could be won and captured by Republicans for the first time in modern Florida political history.
Rubio is running against Democratic Rep. Val Demings, who has raised nearly $20 million more than Rubio. Despite that haul, she trails in almost all public polling and is expected to have an uphill climb in a cycle where Republicans are expected to dominate most Florida races.
“Senator Rubio is grateful to have President Trump’s support and looks forward to having him in Miami to help deliver Republican victories for candidates at every level,” said a Rubio campaign spokesperson.