Trump says DeSantis "probably" his biggest challenger as he makes first Iowa trip

Donald Trump
Posted at 6:19 AM, Mar 14, 2023

Former President Donald Trump jabbed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis en route to and in Iowa Monday, calling him "Ron DeSanctus" and saying he probably shouldn't have endorsed DeSantis in his bid for the governor's mansion.

En route to Iowa Monday, Trump said DeSantis was "probably" his biggest challenger for the GOP presidential nomination, but added that "we're not going to have much of a challenge."

The former president spoke to reporters on his way to the first state in the Republican primary lineup next year. Asked if the Florida governor was his greatest rival, Trump responded "I would say probably so, but you never know what happens. It could change. I think we're not going to have much of a challenge."

The former president said he last spoke to DeSantis probably a "couple of months" ago, and even though he said there was "no hostility" between them, Trump didn't pass up an opportunity to take a jab at the Florida Republican.

"It's just that I think it's a strange thing," Trump said. "Because he was out of politics. He was dead. And, you know, I don't think it's nice. I'm a very loyal person. So I don't understand disloyalty. I really don't. But you see it. You do see disloyalty in politics."

Trump has soured on many Republicans he once praised or who worked for him.

In his speech in Davenport, Iowa, Monday night, the former president compared DeSantis, whom he called "Ron DeSanctus," to Utah's Sen. Mitt Romney — not a name to be revered among Trump supporters.

"He was very very bad on ethanol," Trump said of DeSantis. "He fought it all the way. And he also fought against Social Security."

The former president projected confidence Monday night during his speech in Davenport, Iowa, saying no one has done more for farmers than he has.

"How could a farmer vote against me?" Trump said. "... How the hell would I lose Iowa? How is that possible?"

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the only other major GOP contender who has also announced her bid, has already made her way to Iowa, as have other likely 2024 hopefuls, including DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence blasted his old boss during the Gridiron Dinner in Washington, D.C., over the weekend, condemning Trump's continued election denialism and saying the former president endangered his family's life on Jan. 6, 2021. "History will hold Donald Trump accountable," Pence said.

Trump reacted to Pence's comments, saying the former vice president should be blamed for the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, for acting to certify the election results.

"As far as Mike, I heard his statement, and I guess he figured that being nice is not working because he's at three in the polls," Trump said. "So he figured he might as well not be nice any longer. But, you know, he's out there campaigning and he's trying very hard and he's a nice man. I've known him. I had a very good relationship until the end. Had he sent the votes back to the legislators, they wouldn't have had a problem with January 6. So, in many way, you can blame him for January 6."

Pence has repeatedly said he had no choice but to certify the results of the election.