During a GOP event in Orlando on Saturday, former president Donald Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis competed for dominance in their home state. The event highlighted the rivalry between the two politicians.
Amidst a crowd of fervent GOP activists, the event featured dueling video backdrops declaring “Florida is DeSantis Country” and “Florida is Trump Country,” reflecting the fervent support both leaders enjoy among their respective followers.
Before taking the stage, it was clear that Trump had significant support from the crowd. Criticisms from GOP presidential candidates Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie, who are not aligned with Trump, were met with boos.
During his speech, DeSantis refrained from directly criticizing Trump, choosing instead to focus on his record in Florida. He subtly referenced Trump’s reliance on teleprompters, contrasting it with his own approach of speaking from the heart.
DeSantis largely stuck to his usual campaign speech highlighting his achievements in Florida without mentioning Trump.
“Florida’s the model!” he exclaimed. “We know how to get it done.”
In contrast, Trump showcased his strength by inviting lawmakers who had switched their endorsements from DeSantis to Trump onto the stage with him. Trump criticized DeSantis openly, repeatedly calling him names like “Ron DeSantimonious” and “DeSanctus,” accusing him of disloyalty for running against him after seeking his endorsement.
Last month, Florida State Representative Randy Fine, a prominent Jewish Republican, withdrew his endorsement of Governor DeSantis in favor of former President Trump, citing DeSantis’s lack of strong action against antisemitism. Then, last week, Florida’s U.S. Sen. Rick Scott endorsed Trump.
The tensions between the two candidates have escalated recently, with the DeSantis campaign accusing Trump of avoiding a debate and Trump’s supporters mocking DeSantis over trivial matters.
During his speech, Trump repeatedly mocked Biden and made claims about the 2020 election while also portraying his legal issues as political persecution.
The GOP event highlighted the divide within the party, with Trump supporters showing loyalty and enthusiasm while those critical of him faced hostility from the crowd. Hutchinson’s focus on Trump’s potential legal troubles was met with loud disapproval, emphasizing the challenges faced by candidates trying to navigate the GOP landscape without alienating the base.
Despite DeSantis’ popularity in Florida, Trump’s dominance in national polls and key states has posed challenges for DeSantis’ national campaign. Trump’s ability to secure endorsements from key figures in Florida, such as state Rep. Randy Fine and Sen. Rick Scott, further underscores his influence within the state.
During a private ceremony, DeSantis expressed his frustration with trivial politics while signing paperwork to be on the ballot in Florida, surrounded by prominent supporters and the media. He said he was done with all the trivialities, and they needed to be concerned about winning and leading.