Former US President Donald Trump has criticized Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, as rivalry among top Republicans heated up.
Trump has downplayed his former political student as an “ordinary” ruler who lacks “loyalty.”
DeSantis, 44, won re-election by a landslide in Tuesday’s midterm elections, establishing himself as the Republican Party’s brightest rising star.
He is widely expected to run for the party in the 2024 presidential election.
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But Mr Trump, 76, appears increasingly likely to stand in his way.
Analysis: Why criticize Trump
The former president — who owns a huge war chest and remains popular with the party base — would be a staunch opponent of Mr. DeSantis, or any other Republican who dares to challenge him.
In a lengthy statement Thursday night, Trump dismissed the Florida governor as a lightweight politician who came to him “in a desperate situation” when running for his first term in office in 2017.
“Ron had low approval, bad polls, no money, but he said if I was going to support him, he could win,” Trump said. “I also fixed his campaign which completely broke down.”
He went on to complain that DeSantis – whom he calls “Ron DeSanctimonious” – was “playing” by refusing to rule out a presidential bid.
“Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s not really the right answer,” Trump added.
The former president is widely expected to announce his own plan for returning to the White House as soon as next week.
All this is a familiar strategy – done with familiar ferocity and drama.
In 2016, Trump criticized prominent figures within his party without any restrictions – his presidential rivals Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, as well as Arizona Senator John McCain. He did not need the respect or support of Republican leaders, and wore their contempt as a badge.
At the time, these leaders feared that Trump would be a catastrophic standard bearer, that he would drown the party and condemn them to defeat.
Trump won the White House anyway, but after this week — the Republican Party’s midterm defeat in 2018 and Trump’s re-election defeat in 2020 — his party’s elders are fickle again.