Trump confident he’d beat DeSantis in potential presidential matchup

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump said Gov. Ron DeSantis would be no match for him in a potential 2024 matchup.

“If I faced him, I’d beat him like I would beat everyone else,” Trump told Yahoo! Finance, noting that DeSantis likely would stand down.

“I don’t think I will face him,” Trump said. “I think most people would drop out; I think he would drop out.”

The comments come as a new poll showed DeSantis competitive with Trump in the 2024 field. The poll from the John Bolton SuperPAC showed Trump and DeSantis tied with 25% support. The survey revealed a seemingly strange aversion to Trump among likely Republican voters, with just 26% of the 1,000 polled wanting Trump to run at all.

Another poll from the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and the Harris Poll paints a different picture.

That survey says that Trump is still the overwhelming favorite, and it’s actually Vice President Mike Pence who would be the second choice. Trump drew 58% support when included, compared to Pence’s 13% and DeSantis’ 9%. Without Trump, Pence was the choice of 32%, and DeSantis just 20%.

Other metrics reveal more distance between Trump and DeSantis.

“It’s all one-way traffic in the betting for 2024, and it’s Donald Trump who has the momentum … and he’s not far from going on odds-on to be the Republican candidate contesting the election,” said a spokesperson from BoyleSports, an oddsmaker that has made the case that DeSantis has cooled off as a 2024 prospect.

DeSantis is coy when asked about 2024. He has called the chatter about it “nonsense,” addressing the question during state news conferences and national television appearances alike.

“There’s a lot of huge issues. It’s way down the road. It’s not anything that I’m planning for,” DeSantis said during a Fox News Channel appearance last week.

DeSantis has kept up a robust travel schedule, “huge issues” notwithstanding, with regular fundraising trips out of state. He has demonstrated little interest in talking about political travel with the Florida press.

For his part, Trump is looking and acting more like a 2024 hopeful ready to move into a more formal phase of the campaign, with high profile hire Pam Bondi taking over the helm of his Super PAC just last week.

Meanwhile, casting a shadow over this 2024 drama is the reality that DeSantis needed Trump in 2018 to get through the Primary. This reality has not gone unnoticed by Trump himself, who has told audiences he made DeSantis.

“I don’t want to brag about it, but man do I have a good record of endorsements,” Trump said at a West Virginia rally in 2018. “In Florida, we have a great candidate, his name is Ron DeSantis, and he called me and asked whether or not I could endorse him.”

“I said, ‘let me check it out,’” Trump said he told DeSantis. “ … This was a few months ago. He was at three, and I gave him a nice shot and a nice little tweet — bing bing — and he went from three to like 20-something.”

Trump and DeSantis have maintained a united front publicly, but suggestions have mounted that the dynamic could have frayed, especially since Trump lost the presidency.

“Trump f***ing hates DeSantis. He just resents his popularity,” one unidentified “Trump confidant” told Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman this summer.

Among the purported grievances: DeSantis prematurely committed Trump to speak at the Florida GOP Statesman’s Dinner in 2019; he didn’t close beaches in 2020 despite Trump’s wishes, and the Governor skipped a Trump rally while appearing instead with President Joe Biden in Surfside after the Champlain Tower South collapse.

Also worth noting, Trump continues to work with Susie Wiles, the veteran politico who was instrumental to DeSantis’ win in 2018 but was jettisoned unceremoniously by DeSantis soon after.

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies “best political column.” He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com.

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