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Bad blood persists between Trump and DeSantis as both of them reject VP speculation

DeSantis suggests Trump will use ‘identity politics’ to make VP decision

John Bowden
Washington DC
Monday 26 February 2024 22:17 GMT
Kimmel roasts Trump’s VP shortlist: ‘Cloudy with a chance of Meatball Ron’

The fight between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination may be over, but many of those involved aren’t ready to put down their guns just yet.

Allies of the two men and even the Florida governor himself have continued to trade insults over the past week even as Mr Turmp has turned his focus solidly to Nikki Haley, his last remaining rival for the GOP nomination. The former ambassador and governor has vowed to remain in the race after suffering her fourth defeat in a state primary or caucus this Saturday in South Carolina, her home state.

But while Mr Trump has remained above the continued fray with Mr DeSantis, his ex-rival seemed almost eager to drag down the former president’s image among hardcore conservatives last week on a conference call with delegates pledged to his campaign as part of the primary process. On that call, first reported by NBC News and Politico, Mr DeSantis brushed off speculation that Mr Trump was considering him as a possible running mate and reportedly suggested that he wasn’t interested either.

And the reason for that supposed disinterest in the former president’s party? “Identity politics”, according to the former governor: Code for his disdain for the idea that Mr Trump was considering the appeal of adding a woman or person of colour to his ticket.

He said, according to NBC News: “I want everybody in the fold, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t want people representing 10, 15 per cent of the party being in the driver’s seat.”

Mr DeSantis’s comments possibly referred to speculation that Mr Trump was considering Tim Scott, the South Carolina senator who dropped out of the 2024 race before the Iowa Caucuses, as a possible VP pick. Mr Scott is the Senate’s lone Black Republican member. He also is thought to be closer to the party’s neoconservative wing the twin issues of foreign policy and the role of America’s military in the world.

“I would want somebody that, if something happened, the people that voted us in would have been pleased to know that they’re going to continue the mission,” Mr DeSantis added, according to NBC News. “I’m not sure that those are going to necessarily be the criteria that Donald Trump uses. … I have heard that they’re looking more in identity politics. I think that’s a mistake. I think you should just focus on who the best person for the job would be, and then do that accordingly.”

The remarks could have been confused for something Mr DeSantis would have said two months ago before he dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Mr Trump for the nomination following a lacklustre performance in Iowa. Instead, it comes as advisors to both presidential campaigns have been sniping at each other on Twitter and in traditional media.

And they sparked an insulting response from Chris LaCivita, an adviser to the Trump campaign.

“Chicken fingers and pudding cups is what you will be remembered for you sad little man,” he wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, there are other reasons to believe that the two camps aren’t getting along.

Though her feed has not mentioned the former president a single time since late January, DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw joked in one tweet two days after her boss dropped out of the presidential race that Mr Trump could apply for a public defender in Florida — a snarky jab at his quickly-mounting legal fees.

In other tweets from around the same time, Ms Pushaw suggested that Trump voters did not think that their candidate had beaten Mr DeSantis in Iowa on “his own merits”, and also labelled politicians who wanted the state of Florida to help Mr Trump with his legal costs as “simps”.

Mr Trump’s campaign on Monday was celebrating news that Americans for Prosperity, the front group for the massive conservative Koch political network, had announced that it was backing down from further financial support for the Haley campaign after her defeat in South Carolina.

Her closest supporters had predicted the opposite after she came just under 40 per cent in the South Carolina primary. A person connected to the Haley-aligned super PAC SFA Fund told reporters at her Charleston watch event on Saturday that her camp expected to be making important news on the fundraising front in the “next 10 days”.

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