RYE, NH – A seemingly more aggressive Gov. Ron DeSantis appears to be stepping up his criticism of 2024 rival Donald Trump over what he charges is the former president’s failure to deliver on campaign promises during his four years in the White House.
But DeSantis, who has seen Trump’s double-digit lead over him expand in the two months since the conservative governor from Florida launched his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, said he will not match Trump’s insult for insult by participating in “name calling” on the campaign trail.
“I don’t like the name-calling. I don’t do it. I don’t think it’s effective, and I think it turns off a lot of voters,” DeSantis said in a one-on-one interview with Fox News Digital on Sunday in New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary and second general contests on the Republican presidential nominating calendar.
DeSantis is in the midst of a crowded four-day swing in New Hampshire, which directly follows three busy days on the campaign trail in Iowa, with caucuses dominating the GOP schedule.
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DeSantis aims to rebound and change the narrative following staff cuts by his campaign last week in a move by top officials to “streamline” the governor’s 2024 White House bid.
In his Fox News interview, hooking up with reporters, and answering questions from the crowd as he hosts the latest edition of former Republican Sen.’s No BS Backyard BBQ series. Scott Brown with the GOP presidential candidates, DeSantis charged that Trump didn’t get “the job done.”
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“We’ll make sure of course that the differences between the two of us are aired in terms of being ready to follow through on promises and actually get the job done, which I’ve done in Florida as a whole,” DeSantis emphasized.
And he argued that Trump “has made promises – draining the swamp. Having Mexico build a border wall. Locking up Hillary [Clinton] increase and eliminate debt. He did not keep those promises. That’s just the truth.”
Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung, who responded, charged in a statement on Fox News that “Ron DeSantis is nothing more than an off-brand, bootleg version of America First. No matter how long he cosplays as President Trump, he will never be his or achieve one hundredth of what was accomplished during the Trump Administration. Ron DeSantis should pack his knapsack and hitchhike his way home to focus on serious issue facing the great state of Florida.”
Trump began cutting DeSantis months before the Florida governor launched his presidential campaign in May.
On Friday at a key state Republican Party dinner in Iowa, Trump told GOP voters to “don’t take a chance” on DeSantis — who is a distant second to Trump in the polls. Trump continued to pelt the governor with derogatory epithets a day later, at a Saturday night rally in Erie, Pennsylvania.
In return, the DeSantis campaign on Sunday morning drew attention to a new report indicating that a Trump political committee had spent more than $40 million on legal fees, as the former president faces multiple lawsuits.
DeSantis’ communications director Andrew Romeo argued that Trump spent tens of millions of dollars “falsely attacking Ron DeSantis and paying his own legal fees, not a cent on defeating Joe Biden.”
Asked for his reaction to the report on Trump’s legal fees, DeSantis told Fox News “I think people can make their own judgments about that.”
But he was quick to point out that “we also pointed out that his other big spender since coming back last year was spending about $25 million to attack me. And he was attacking me before I even became a candidate for president. I was in Tallahassee doing all these great things for the people of Florida.”
DeSantis emphasized “I think we should focus our resources on defeating the Democrats and on defeating Joe Biden and that goes with all of these things.”
The governor reiterated that he thinks Trump’s “name-calling and stuff — I think it’s childish. It’s not something I’m going to get involved in. I’m a person about substance.”
“I’m a guy about getting the job done. So we’ve been very clear when people have asked about important attacks that he’s launched on policy, with which we may disagree,” DeSantis said. .
And pointing to Trump’s growing legal controversy, DeSantis highlighted that “you’re not going to be able to bring the administrative state to heal, to kill the deep state, do all of this, if you have distractions. If you’re not focused. You have to . you go in there, guns blazing, nails spitting. But man, you focus on the job at hand and I’ll do that so we can get the job done.”
DeSantis argued that the attacks he faces from Trump and his other rivals in the large field of GOP presidential candidates show that he is a threat.
“If you’re awake, you don’t have to worry about anybody,” DeSantis said. “So I think the fact that I’m taking the incoming from all of these people, not just him, but a lot of the other candidates, a lot of the media, that shows people know that I’m a threat. They know what’s been happening on the ground in Iowa these last two weeks when we’ve had these things. Everybody’s seen that.”
Trump is the front-runner in the latest GOP presidential nomination polls nationwide and in key early voting states, but DeSantis disagrees with suggestions that the former president has a lock on the Republican primary electorate.
“I don’t think he has a strong hold on the majority. I think he has a stronghold on some,” the governor said as he answered a question from a GOP voter. “But I think the majority of Republican primary voters will definitely vote for someone else or be ready if you make the case. And to me, I think I’m the candidate who’s more likely to beat Biden. I’m more reliable in policy.”
DeSantis is expected to spotlight his policy differences with Trump when he launches his economic policy in a speech Monday in New Hampshire that was first reported last week by Fox News.
While DeSantis appears to be stepping up the frequency of his jabs at Trump, they still pale in comparison to the attacks on the former president by some of the lower-level contenders for the nomination — such as former Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, and former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas.
Trump is not committed to taking the stage at next month’s first presidential debate, a Fox News-hosted showdown on August 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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DeSantis told Fox News that “You have to get this nomination. People have to show up. They have to make the case. They have to answer the questions, and then they have to show the Republican votes why they should be who was nominated. And that’s what I said I would do.”
Asked if Trump’s participation or lack of participation in the debate would affect his gameplan, DeSantis said “we’re going to be prepared for all eventualities. Either way. We look forward to doing it. I think it’s a good part. of the process.”