Newly released sound offers more evidence, as if it were needed, that former President Donald Trump takes credit for Ron DeSantis being Florida Governor.
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman released audio from a September 2021 Trump interview for her new book, sound that rehashed Trump’s familiar take that DeSantis would have been stuck at just “3%” in the polls if he hadn’t successfully wheedled an endorsement from the former President in 2018.
“He was at 3%,” Trump told Haberman. “But the people of Florida didn’t associate him with the word ‘Governor.'”
“They saw him defending me on ‘Russia, Russia, Russia,'” Trump added. “But you know, often times you see that, but you don’t say, ‘Oh, he’s going to be Governor of Florida.'”
“He came to me, he said, ‘I’d love your endorsement,’” Trump repeated. “I said, ‘Ron, you’re at 3%. You can’t win.’ He said, ‘If you endorse me, I can.’”
Trump resisted: “Ron, you’re at 3%, you can’t win.” DeSantis continued to press for the endorsement.
“Well, look, you never know, but it’s not going to be easy,” Trump reportedly told DeSantis, before referring to his chief Primary opponent, Adam Putnam. “This guy’s got $28 million. He’s been running for eight years.”
Haberman has reported that Trump called DeSantis “fat, phony and whiny,” offering a unique context for Trump’s reiteration of the claim that he made DeSantis, one that he has made before with similar language and narrative details.
Last year, he said he wasn’t “too thrilled” about endorsing DeSantis because “people didn’t really know who he was.”
“So when Ron asked me for help, for an endorsement,” Trump added, “He was at 3(%), and 3(%) means you don’t have a chance. He went up like a rocket ship.”
Trump noted Putnam told him the endorsement was “like a nuclear weapon went off.”
“We gave up, we didn’t spend our money, it was over,” Trump quoted Putnam as saying.
“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 for months 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.
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.
Trump’s comments on DeSantis are especially noteworthy in light of the former President continuing to work with adviser Susie Wiles, who famously was exiled from DeSantis’ orbit after his election.
Wiles, a veteran political consultant who was key to Trump winning Florida in 2016, also is widely credited with being the architect of DeSantis’ defeat of Democrat Andrew Gillum.
The former President has said DeSantis would not be a challenge.
“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.
However, it’s clear that DeSantis continues to stay on Trump’s mind.