Friends to Enemies: How Trump and DeSantis’ Relationship Deteriorated Over the Years

MIAMI (AP) — It wasn’t always like this.

Before Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis were the main rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, they were allies.

Trump gave DeSantis’ candidacy for governor an early boost by tweeting his support even before DeSantis formally entered the race. In his 2018 victory speech, DeSantis made a point of thanking the president, saying, “I think we’re going to have a great partnership.”

See How DeSantis and Trump’s Relationship Evolved—and Broke — as the two face off to take on Democrat Joe Biden:


During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-Congressman DeSantis said he would not give an endorsement in the packed field, but would support the eventual candidate.

When it turned out to be Trump, DeSantis issued a statement urging fellow Republicans to support the famous businessman.

“It is now clear that Donald Trump will accumulate the necessary delegates to be nominated by the Republican Party,” DeSantis said in a statement, according to NPR.

“If we are to defeat Hillary Clinton and have a chance to change the trajectory of our country, we need to unite around the Republican ticket in November.”


Early in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, then-Congressman DeSantis came to the president’s defense to offer his support.

“Whatever (Mueller) ends up doing has no legitimacy when you have all this evidence of corrupted political bias and the disparate treatment of Hillary Clinton and how they are treating Trump associates,” DeSantis told Fox News commentator , Lou Dobbs. on one of these TV hits in December 2017.


Before DeSantis entered the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race, he asked Trump to send out a tweet announcing him as a good candidate.

Trump thank you.

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT governor of Florida. He loves our country and is a true FIGHTER!” Trump tweeted in December 2017.


One of the most memorable moments of DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign was an ad with his children in which he shows voters how devoted he is to Trump.

“Build the wall,” he tells daughter Madison as she stacks blocks of cardboard bricks.

Clutching son Mason in his lap, DeSantis pretends to read him from Trump’s “The Art of the Deal”: “So Mr. Trump said, ‘You’re fired.’ I love that part.”

Another scene shows DeSantis holding a Trump campaign sign in front of Madison in a high chair: “Make America Great Again,” DeSantis reads.


After narrowly winning the 2018 race, DeSantis singled out Trump in his victory speech by acknowledging the many people who supported his campaign.

“I’d like to thank our president for standing by me when it wasn’t necessarily the right thing to do,” said DeSantis. “Mr. President, I look forward to working with you to advance Florida’s priorities. I think you’re going to get tired of me calling you asking for things for Florida, but I’m looking forward to it and I think we’ll have a great partnership.


In 2019, Trump moved his residence from Trump Tower in New York City to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, and held a “welcoming rally” with Governor DeSantis near Miami.

“Welcome to Florida,” DeSantis told him.

Trump quipped that DeSantis “better not be more popular in Florida than I am” after heaving high praise for the governor. He went on to suggest to the crowd that DeSantis should wear jackets less often so that people would know he is not fat.


In the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump applauded DeSantis for his handling of the virus response.

“He did a lot of things right. And he’s been really — I mean, he’s very health conscious. He worries a lot about the cost of prescription drugs. He’s been a fantastic governor for Florida. They are very happy with him,” Trump said at a news conference.

DeSantis initially resisted issuing a statewide stay-at-home order, but changed course and issued it after facing pressure from Trump and White House aides.


At a campaign event before the 2020 election, Trump praised DeSantis and called him a friend, but also joked that he would blame the governor if he didn’t win Florida.

“I’m going to fire him somehow. I will fire you. I’ll figure it out,” he said.

Trump ended up winning Florida in 2020 by 3.4 percentage points – a larger margin of victory than he did in 2016.


Trump and DeSantis continued to publicly support each other into early 2021 – so much so that Trump even suggested the governor of Florida as a possible 2024 running mate.

“A lot of people like that,” Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo in April 2021. “You know, I’m just saying what I’ve read and what you’ve read. They love that ticket. But certainly Ron would be considered. He’s a nice guy.”


As DeSantis’ national profile began to rise, so did talk of his potential as a presidential candidate in 2024 — and the former president took notice.

“If I faced him, I would beat him like I would beat everyone else”, Trump said of DeSantis in October 2021, saying that he did not expect the governor to challenge him.

Days before the 2022 midterm election, Trump revealed his new nickname for governor: Ron DeSanctimonious. He then visited Miami for a rally in support of US Senator Marco Rubio – but not DeSantis, who was holding a separate campaign event that same day for his own re-election.

In the days following DeSantis’ re-election victory, Trump released a statement criticizing him as an “average REPUBLICAN governor with great public relations” and criticizing him for not ruling out a presidential bid in 2024.

“He says, ‘I’m just focused on the gubernatorial race, I’m not looking to the future.’ Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer,” Trump said.

DeSantis, asked to comment on Trump’s remarks at a news conference, said being targeted was simply part of the job.

“What you learn is that this is all just noise,” DeSantis said.


In recent months, Trump has dramatically stepped up his criticism of DeSantis, particularly resenting what he sees as the governor’s ingratitude.

“DeSantis was elected because of me. You remember he had nothing. He was dead. He was leaving the race. He came and begged me, begged me for an endorsement,” Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in February. “He said, ‘If you support me, I will win.’ And there were tears streaming from his eyes.”

The Trump campaign resurrected the 2018 DeSantis ad to remind viewers of Trump’s help in the governor’s political rise.

“Isn’t it time DeSantis remembered how he got to where he is?” says the ad.

Trump also shared a photo suggesting impropriety when DeSantis was a professor two decades ago, despite no evidence of it; he said DeSantis needed a personality transplant; and ran an ad accusing DeSantis of “sticking his fingers where they don’t belong”—a reference to a Daily Beast report that the governor once ate chocolate pudding with his fingers.

On Wednesday, after DeSantis’ Twitter Spaces presidential announcement was plagued with glitchesTrump posted a video on Truth Social of a “Ron” rocket crashing and exploding.


While the Florida governor has largely avoided confrontation with Trump, he has managed to land a few blows.

As prosecutors prepared an indictment against Donald Trump in New York, DeSantis criticized the investigation but also said, “I don’t know what it means to pay a bribe to a porn star to ensure silence about some sort of alleged affair.”

In an interview by Piers Morgan that aired a few days later, he laughed off a question about what nicknames Trump was using for him.

“I can’t spell DeSanctimonious. I don’t really know what that means, but I kind of like it. It’s long, it has a lot of vowels. I mean, so let’s go with it. That is good. You can call me whatever you want as long as you also call me a winner,” said DeSantis.

On Wednesday, after launching his campaign, DeSantis avoided referring to Trump by name but subtly criticized him over his defeats in the national Republican election.

“We must end the culture of losing that has infected the GOP for the past few years,” DeSantis said on Twitter Spaces. “The tired dogmas of the past are inadequate for a vibrant future. We must look forward, not back.”

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