Former President Trump said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) running for president would be "a great act of disloyalty" as he kicked off his first two major campaign events as part of his own 2024 presidential run.
Trump visited New Hampshire and South Carolina, two of the first states to vote in the primary calendar, on Saturday after a quieter-than-normal beginning to his reelection campaign. He launched his campaign in mid-November, but has yet to hold any major rallies that were consistent during his 2016 and 2020 runs.
Trump announced the leaders of his New Hampshire and South Carolina campaigns during his speeches. After his South Carolina speech, he sat for an interview with The Associated Press and criticized DeSantis, who is rumored to be considering his own presidential run and who has consistently placed second in hypothetical Republican primary polls.
Trump emphasized his own status leading in many of those polls and took credit for DeSantis's first election as governor of Florida.
"If he runs, that's fine. I'm way up in the polls. He's going to have to do what he wants to do, but he may run," Trump said. "I do think it would be a great act of disloyalty because, you know, I got him in. He had no chance. His political life was over."
Trump endorsed DeSantis ahead of the Republican primary for the gubernatorial race in 2018.
Trump faced criticism from many in his own party following the November midterm elections, in which Republicans underperformed their hopes and expectations. The president's party has historically lost seats in Congress during the midterms, but Democrats were able to grow their majority in the Senate and only narrowly lost in the House.
Many, including some allies of Trump, blamed the former president for endorsing GOP candidates in the primaries who were seen as less likely to win a general election but more loyal to him than their other challengers.
Many of these candidates lost in key congressional and gubernatorial races.
Polls began showing DeSantis, who has not publicly confirmed he a 2024 run, closing the gap with Trump or in some cases leading in hypothetical polls. But Trump led DeSantis by 17 points in a Morning Consult poll earlier this month.
Trump told AP that he has not spoken to DeSantis in a long time. He expressed confidence about his own prospects with the possibility of DeSantis running in an interview with David Brody on "The Water Cooler" earlier this week, saying, "We'll handle that the way I handle things."
Trump is the only major candidate who has officially launched their candidacy in the 2024 race, but many Republicans have indicated they are considering running, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
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