Since 2022, most political watchers have viewed the race for the 2024 Republican nomination for president as a two-person race. Despite others like Nikki Haley or Tim Scott throwing their hat into the rings, most polling has shown that the primary will be mostly contested between former President Donald Trump, who immediately announced his candidacy after the GOP’s embarrassing midterms, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s yet to announce he’s actually running.
Over the past few months, Trump has seemed to be frightened over DeSantis’s rise in Republican politics. The former president has “ramped up attacks against DeSantis.”
New Conservative Post wrote, “It’s always kind of sad to watch superstars decline at the end of their careers, missing free throws, fumbling the ball or striking out on pitches that used to be home runs. It just wasn’t the same to see Michael Jordan wearing a Washington Wizards jersey, Emmitt Smith wearing number 22 for the Arizona Cardinals, or Willie Mays donning a Mets cap at the twilight of his career.
At a political rally in Miami, Florida over the past weekend, we might have the equivalent with Donald Trump. Sure, he has some of that spark left and he still knows how to play to a crowd, but his fastball isn’t what it used to be. Long gone are the days of “Lyin’ Ted” or “Crooked Hillary” or even “Sleepy Joe.” Facing the prospect of competing against Ron DeSantis in the 2024 primary, the 45th President took to the stage in South Florida thinking he was ready to offer another knockout with a nickname, but instead, he got groans after calling the governor “Ron De-Sanctimonious.”
Trump’s punches have tended to fail to land against the Florida governor, but the DeSantis camp did not respond in kind, until this past weekend. That’s when the true fight for the Republican nomination began.
DeSantis supporters have finally decided to hit back.
The Washington Examiner reports that a pro-DeSantis super PAC launched an advertisement hitting Trump on Friday as a “gun-grabber” right before both men were scheduled to speak at the National Rifle Association leadership forum.
Both Trump and DeSantis addressed the NRA event Friday, where the PAC, Never Back Down, targeted its ad and planned to distribute fliers with similar messages, blasting the former president for siding with liberals. The attack ad follows one from MAGA Inc, painting DeSantis as having “pudding fingers.”
During his NRA speech, Trump struck a dramatically different tone and affirmed his unabashed support for the Second Amendment. He also periodically mocked DeSantis, his likely primary foe, as “DeSanctus” during his remarks.
“I was proud to be the most pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment president you’ve ever had in the White House,” Trump said Friday. “I think that’s been acknowledged, and with your support, in 2024, I will be your loyal friend and fearless champion once again as the 47th president of the United States.”
DeSantis also addressed the NRA gathering via prerecorded remarks as he traveled between Virginia to address the Liberty University Convocation and New Hampshire for the Amos Tuck dinner.
“As governor, I’ve resisted calls to take up gun control even when such a stand is superficially unpopular because I understand that it is precisely at those moments when a right is unpopular that it needs true champions,” the governor said.
The DeSantis camp didn’t just stop with guns. Over the weekend, the same group launched a television ad asking why Trump sides with Democrats so often.
The Washington Post writes, “A super PAC aligned with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) released a television ad Sunday attacking Donald Trump as a liar facing legal peril and features an image of the former president, looking down as a red tie hangs loosely around his open collar, as a narrator asks, ‘What happened to Donald Trump?’
Sunday’s ad is the highest-profile, and most direct, attack on Trump so far. It ran as a one-time ad buy on “Fox News Sunday.” It spotlights what leading Republicans believe are the vulnerabilities of the party’s most dominant, and troublesome, figure: legal challenges that can be distracting, Trump’s undisciplined comments, and worries about whether he is up to the task of challenging Democrats.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who has fought Trump since rebuffing the president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in that state, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, “if we get distracted” and talk about topics like the investigations into Trump, “that only helps Joe Biden. It does not give us a path for Republicans to win.”
Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign, said in a statement: “DeSantis is colluding with his globalist handlers to go full Never Trump in order to gaslight the people into thinking that Medicare and Social Security should be ripped away from hard-working Americans. President Trump has made it clear that he will always stand on the side of Americans, and protect benefits seniors worked for and paid for their entire lives.”
Last week, the Trump campaign ran a strange ad talking about Ron DeSantis eating pudding with his fingers and saying that the Florida governor wants to reform entitlement programs.
Pudding Fingers pic.twitter.com/PRCVAZlkw9
— MAGA War Room (@MAGAIncWarRoom) April 14, 2023
Reforming the social safety net has long been considered a conservative goal because doing nothing is untenable. For example, a recent report found that starting in 2034 retirees will only receive part of their benefits if Congress doesn’t make changes.
CNBC noted that the “2022 Social Security Trustees report finds that in 2034, retirees will start receiving a reduced benefit if Congress doesn’t fix funding issues for the social program. In other words, Social Security will exist after 2034, but retirees will only receive 77% of their full benefit starting then.
‘No major Social Security legislation has been passed at all since the early 1980s,’ says Alicia H. Munnell, Director of the Center of Retirement Research at Boston College. ‘And so we do have this event coming up that forces Congress either to do something, or most people’s benefits are going to be cut by [nearly] 25%.’”
The Trump ad, which primarily ran on Fox News, went over like a lead balloon for many conservative commentators. FNC host Neil Cavuto called the ad “childish” on Your World Friday, wrote The Daily Beast.
‘It is insulting not only, you know, to push ads and promotions like this, but to think the American people would buy it or should be exposed to it—I know I’m naive,’ Cavuto said. ‘I just find it idiotic.’
Daron Shaw, member of the Fox News decision desk, agreed.
‘The former president’s a little like that junior high-school bully who managed to find the one thing about everybody’s appearance that, you know, that made them uncomfortable, that made them insecure, and would hone in on that to sort of elevate himself and make them feel bad,’ Shaw said.
For his part, DeSantis ‘denied any knowledge of pudding-gate while speaking with Piers Morgan in an interview on Fox Nation last month.
He said, ‘I don’t remember ever doing that’ but added that he may have done that as a child.”