BEDMINSTER, New Jersey — Former President Donald Trump, the leading 2024 GOP presidential candidate, told Breitbart News exclusively that his one-time chief rival for the GOP nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is “crashing badly” down out of second place in the race.
“He’s crashing badly,” Trump said of DeSantis.
DeSantis, who in the lead-up to this interview taped at Trump’s golf club here last Thursday laid off dozens of campaign staffers, has said just weeks into his presidential campaign he is now doing a “reboot.” Trump mocked the idea that DeSantis could successfully “reboot” his failing campaign.
“This is his third one,” Trump said.
Asked what went wrong with DeSantis, Trump said the Florida governor has “got no personality.” Trump also pointed out that without his support in 2018, DeSantis never would have been elected governor.
“He’s got no personality,” Trump said. “He just has no personality.”
DeSantis, Trump accurately noted, was significantly trailing then-Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam before Trump endorsed DeSantis in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial primary. “Poll shows Trump endorsement gives DeSantis an edge in Florida governor’s race,” was the headline in Politico in 2018 about the primary shortly after Trump endorsed DeSantis, a story that noted: “Prior to Trump’s re-endorsement of DeSantis, the congressman was trailing Putnam in a number of Florida polls.” Similarly, a Tampa Bay Times piece published after the primary noted that DeSantis’s victory over Putnam was “Fueled By Trump.”
“The only reason he won in the first place was because I endorsed him,” Trump said. “He was dead. He was down by 30 something points to Adam Putnam who was the Secretary of Agriculture. He came and asked me if I would endorse him. I didn’t know Adam Putnam and I endorsed Ron and he went up like a rocket ship as soon as I endorsed him. But that wasn’t him going up.”
Trump noted that DeSantis has proven to be a “lousy candidate” and will likely fall behind other candidates in the GOP primary.
“People said he was a lousy candidate,” Trump said. “He turned out to be a lousy candidate. I don’t think he’s going to be second very long. It looks like he’s being superseded by others or getting very close.”
Even before this interview, DeSantis slipped into third place in South Carolina as former Gov. Nikki Haley surged past him there per a Fox Business poll. What’s more, some national surveys have shown DeSantis falling into a two-way tie with businessman Vivek Ramaswamy for second place. Ramaswamy has overtaken DeSantis for second place in Ohio polling.
What’s more, every single GOP primary poll—national or state, later states or early states—shows Trump leading and usually by substantial margins, well into double digits. For instance, late this past week a survey out of Iowa showed Trump leading DeSantis by 24 percent—Trump is at 44 and DeSantis down at 20.
2024 Iowa Republican Caucus
• Trump — 44% (+24)
• DeSantis — 20%
• Scott — 9%
• Ramaswamy — 5%
• Haley — 4%
• Pence — 3%
• Burgum — 1%
• Undecided — 12%
• Trump — 55% (+16)
• DeSantis — 39%
— InteractivePolls (@IAPolls2022) August 4, 2023
Another survey, out of Michigan, showed Trump leading the GOP primary field by 48 percent—with Trump at 61 percent and DeSantis lagging far behind at 13 percent.
Michigan 2024: Trump holds 48-point lead for Republican Nomination
• Trump — 61% (+48)
• DeSantis — 13%
• Pence — 7%
• Ramaswamy — 4%
• Haley — 3%
• Christie — 2%
• Scott — 2%
• Hutchinson — 1%
— InteractivePolls (@IAPolls2022) August 4, 2023
Polls out of New Hampshire, South Carolina, and basically everywhere else show the same picture: Trump dominating near or above majority support and DeSantis dropping further and further behind.
DeSantis, meanwhile, continues to make serious missteps as his “reboot” keeps failing. DeSantis’s largest donor, Robert Bigelow, told Reuters in an interview published on Friday that he will not be donating any more money unless serious changes that have not yet happened are made. Bigelow had given $20 million to the pro-DeSantis Super PAC Never Back Down.
What’s more, just after he relaunched his campaign, DeSantis found himself at the center of a controversy where Florida’s new education standards sought to at least in some cases downplay the severity of slavery. “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” reads one line of the new course curriculum from the Florida education officials. While conservatives have mostly praised the rest of the plan, some black conservatives including most elected black conservatives holding national office—like Reps. Byron Donalds (R-FL), Wesley Hunt (R-TX), and John James (R-MI), as well as Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)—criticized DeSantis for that line. In response, rather than fixing it, both DeSantis’s campaign and DeSantis himself attacked Donalds viciously last week.
Asked about DeSantis’s decision to attack Donalds—who has endorsed Trump over DeSantis in 2024—Trump told Breitbart News that it was a mistake for the Florida governor to do so. Trump in his answer, for what it’s worth, does not get into the education standards at all—he just notes that DeSantis thought Donalds supported him but when Donalds endorsed Trump instead Trump said he was “very honored.”
“I don’t think you can attack Byron,” Trump said. “He’s a great congressman with a tremendous future. I will say this. A lot of people thought Byron Donalds was a DeSantis person. They come from Florida—and Byron got out and said, ‘Look, I have to endorse Trump because Trump is the one that can do it.’ I was very honored by his endorsement but if you’ve watched him recently on television he’s a star. What he has done is incredible. He’s really respected. But I guess he would, DeSantis would maybe attack him. A lot of people thought that they were friendly—and they might be friendly—but Byron Donalds did what he thought was the right thing and he endorsed me, not DeSanctus.”