Former President Donald Trump early Monday morning lashed out at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over his COVID response ahead of a possible 2024 Republican presidential primary clash.
The conservative Club for Growth was closely aligned with Trump while he was in office but the relationship fell apart after the group opposed Trump-backed 2022 Senate candidates Mehmet Oz and J.D. Vance. Since Trump's candidates were widely blamed for costing the Republican Party a bigger win in the midterms, the Club for Growth has thrown its support — and money — behind DeSantis. The Club for Growth responded to Trump's 2024 announcement last year by releasing polls showing DeSantis leading Trump in New Hampshire and Iowa, the first two states on the party's nominating calendar.
Trump lashed out at the group and DeSantis in a Truth Social post shortly before 1 am on Monday.
"The Club for No Growth is a GLOBALIST group that I have been taking to the cleaners for years," Trump wrote, adding that "Ron DeSanctimonious, who I made Governor in BOTH the Primary & the General, is also a Globalist, & so are his donors."
"Jeb 'Low Energy' Bush was next to him last week," Trump wrote, referring to his old 2016 GOP primary foe. "Check PAST!"
Trump in another post on Sunday night sought to attack DeSantis over his response to COVID, citing his own "revelations" at a campaign rally about "Ron DeSanctimonious doing FAR WORSE than many other Republican governors, including that he unapologetically shut down Florida and its beaches."
DeSantis, who was one of the first governors to lift COVID restrictions early in the pandemic against the advice of public health professionals and the Trump administration, has tried to tout his record on COVID ahead of a potential 2024 presidential bid.
Trump told reporters on Saturday that DeSantis and his team were "trying to rewrite history."
"There are Republican governors that did not close their states," Trump claimed. "Florida was closed for a long period of time."
Many public venues were closed in Florida and other states through the summer of 2020 but DeSantis was one of the first to lift restrictions on bars, gyms and beaches.
Trump, whose disastrous response to the COVID pandemic may have cost him the 2020 election, defended his own management, saying that he "had governors that decided not to close a thing and that was up to them."
Trump, who has also sought to claim credit for the quick rollout of COVID vaccines, also criticized DeSantis for shifting positions on the vaccines, saying that he had "changed his tune a lot."
Trump, who traveled to early primary states New Hampshire and South Carolina over the weekend, repeatedly took aim at his potential 2024 rival.
"Ron would have not been governor if it wasn't for me. So when I hear he might run, I consider that very disloyal," he said on Saturday.
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"If he runs, that's fine. I'm way up in the polls," Trump said later in an interview with the Associated Press. "He's going to have to do what he wants to do, but he may run. 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."
Three recent national polls found Trump leading DeSantis by double digits but DeSantis holds a slight lead in recent surveys from Iowa and New Hampshire.
A number of former Trump administration officials are also considering jumping into the race, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Trump said on Saturday that he told Haley she "should do it" even as he took a shot at her for previously saying that she would not run against him.
"I talked to her for a little while, I said, 'Look, you know, go by your heart if you want to run,'" he said. "She's publicly said that 'I would never run against my president, he was a great president.'"
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