In wake of indictments and with Ron DeSantis focused on condo collapse, Donald Trump holds Florida rally – USA TODAY
The governor’s office denied reports it asked Trump organizers to postpone the Sarasota rally.
DeSantis has discouraged talk of a 2024 White House run, saying he’s focused on his current job.
Trump, who’s hinted at a presidential re-run in 2024, has expressed annoyance at DeSantis’ rise.
WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s campaign-style rally in Florida Saturday comes at a fraught time for the former president: While the organization bearing his name in New York was indicted this week, he is also facing a potential rivalry with Florida governor and protege Ron DeSantis.
Trump revisits Florida, a state he won twice, with some Republicans already talking about the 2024 presidential race – and expressing support for DeSantis for the GOP nomination over the ex-president. DeSantis has scored well in early straw polls conducted at high-profile meetings, the Conservative Political Action Conference and the Western Conservative Summit.
Florida’s top Republican, however, will not be at Trump’s rally in Sarasota on Saturday.
He spoke with Trump, who agreed it was the right decision not to attend the rally, said DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw: “The Governor’s duty is to be in Surfside making sure the families and community have what they need in the aftermath of this tragedy.”
The governor’s office also disputed reports that it asked Trump organizers to postpone the Sarasota rally in the wake of the building collapse near Miami.
Throughout the year, DeSantis and aides have discouraged talk about the 2024 presidential race, saying he is focused on his current job ahead of his re-election bid next year.
“The governor has a great relationship with the president,” said Helen Aguirre Ferre, executive director of the Florida Republican Party and a former communications director for DeSantis. “He’s always had a great relationship with the president. That’s not going to change.”
In interviews, Trump has sought to assert his party dominance by saying he would consider the Florida governor as a potential running mate. He has also taken credit for DeSantis’ success, saying his endorsement enabled the then-congressman to win the Florida Republican primary for governor in 2018.
“I was at the beginning of Ron,” Trump told the Fox Business Network last month.
Trump’s representatives declined to discuss any differences with DeSantis in the run-up to the Sarasota rally, issuing only a statement saying they never planned to postpone the event.
Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington noted Sarasota is three-and-a-half hours driving time away from the Miami area, and the rally will not affect recovery efforts at Surfside. Organizers plan to collect relief aid at the Trump rally, she said.
“Like all Americans, President Trump sends his deepest condolences to those who’ve lost loved ones or been displaced by the terrible tragedy in Surfside,” Harrington said.
With DeSantis facing a re-election bid just next year, Democrats are looking to exploit divisions between the governor and the former president. A political action committee called Remove Ron put up an ad this week poking Trump over GOP support for his supposed protege.
Potentially seeking to turn Trump – and some of his supporters – against DeSantis, the voiceover on the ad addressed Trump directly by saying he took a “rookie congressman” and made him governor of the nation’s third most populous state.
“Now Ron’s beating you in the race for president,” the ad said.
Indictment of Trump Organization and CFO loom over rally
Sarasota will be Trump’s first rally since prosecutors unsealed indictments of the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg, the company’s long-time chief financial officer. Weisselberg, accused of collecting more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation as part of a company-sanctioned scheme to avoid taxes, pleaded not guilty.
Trump, who remains under investigation but is nonetheless considering another presidential campaign in 2024, is expected to denounce the indictments as politically motivated in his speech to Florida supporters.
Trump called it a “political witch hunt by the Radical Left Democrats.”
Saturday is also a homecoming of sorts for the former president. His Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, is closed for the summer, so Trump is currently living at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.