Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) criticized former President Donald Trump‘s character in a recent interview with Piers Morgan. The interview included some of the governor’s first comments against Trump in the 2024 cycle.
The comments were a subtle rebuke of the former president, but they may be too late and too weak, a GOP operative told the Hill.
“What’s happening this week, the party thinks it’s wildly unfair and the way President Trump is being treated is a total joke, and they’re rallying around him — and that’s from a lot of people who love him, people who hate him who think he’s being treated unfairly,” the Republican operative told the outlet.
“These attacks are being perceived as cheap shots. Kicking someone while they’re down. So I don’t think they’ve helped [DeSantis]. If anything, they’ve helped Trump,” the operative continued.
During his interview with Piers Morgan for Fox Nation, DeSantis discussed the importance of character for leaders. It was an apparent jab at Trump, who is embroiled in legal woes over a reimbursement for hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.
“At the end of the day as a leader, you really want to look to people like our Founding Fathers, like what type of character — it’s not saying that you don’t ever make a mistake in your personal life — but I think what type of character are you bringing?” DeSantis said.
“So, somebody who really set the standard is George Washington because he always put the republic over his own personal interest. When we won the American Revolution, Washington surrendered his sword. [King] George III said he’s the greatest man in the world if he gives up power,” DeSantis added.
DeSantis’s shots across the bow have garnered mixed reactions among GOP senators. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) argued winning is more important than character for a presidential contender.
“You look at college football, basketball, [or] anything in this country — winning matters first,” Tuberville told reporters.
“Unfortunately, sometimes, character should be more involved. But people look for success; they look for people to get things done. …That’s the way it is.”
Tuberville, a former college football coach, endorsed Trump shortly after the former president announced his 2024 campaign in November. So far, four other senators have endorsed Trump for the GOP nomination in 2024.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) called DeSantis’s comments on Trump “gutsy” and said the Florida governor is stepping into a “big arena” if he announces a 2024 bid.
“He’s stepping into a big arena. It’s a big arena. He’s probably calculating that if he’s going to be in that arena, you can’t just take all the blows. You have to land a couple yourself,” Cramer told reporters, per the Hill.
Cramer has previously said the GOP is “in desperate need of some new leadership” and noted that DeSantis has “certainly earned the right to be at the head of the class.”
Republicans in the House are divided on who to support in the 2024 primary. Their likely best options will be between Trump and DeSantis, and most members from Florida have refused to commit to either Florida man.
DeSantis has not announced a bid for the White House, but he is expected to confirm a presidential run in late May or early June. DeSantis and Trump are clear front-runners of the GOP primary, according to the vast majority of poll data.