DeSantis is ‘living rent-free in Trump’s head’ according to Florida governor’s allies

There has been a barrage of political fireworks from former President Trump in recent weeks with the crossfire directed at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“His polls have crashed,” Trump said of DeSantis in a statement last week, as the former president pointed to his widening lead over the Florida governor in the latest national surveys in the emerging 2024 Republican presidential nomination race.

“Man, he’s dropping like a rock,” Trump, who excels in the art of in-your-face politics, said Saturday in Waco, Texas, as he held his first campaign rally of the year.

In an interview on Fox News’ “Hannity” on Monday night, the former president claimed that DeSantis “is getting crushed now in the polls.”


DeSantis, who seen his standing soar with conservatives across the country in recent years and who won an overwhelming 19-point gubernatorial re-election victory in Florida in November, remains on the 2024 sidelines. 

However, he is widely expected to enter the race, and in interview that that ran last week on Fox Nation, the Florida governor said “stay tuned” when asked about his political future. Trump, who launched his third White House campaign in November, appears to view DeSantis as his chief rival. He has ramped up attacks on the Florida governor as his own legal troubles have mounted amid looming indictments.


DeSantis allies argued that Trump’s attacks on the Florida governor are a sign of weakness. 

“Gov. DeSantis hasn’t even officially entered the race for the White House, and it is crystal clear DeSantis is living rent-free in Trump’s head and the only person who can beat the former president. This is a two-man race, and Trump knows it. Gov. DeSantis has an increasing base of support in key early voting states,” Erin Perrine told Fox News.

Perrine, a top communications official in the Trump White House and on the former president’s 2020 re-election team, is now communications director for Never Back Down, a new DeSantis-aligned super PAC that is staffing up with plenty of campaign heavyweights.

She touted that “Never Back Down is a movement with unparalleled enthusiasm for the governor to enter the race and will propel Gov. DeSantis to the White House.” 

Sources in DeSantis’ wider orbit have said any presidential campaign launch would come in the late spring or early summer, after the end of Florida’s current legislative session. However, the governor’s recent stops in the early voting states of Iowa and Nevada and a trip next month to New Hampshire are sparking more 2024 speculation.


In speeches this year, the governor has pitched his numerous conservative policy victories in Florida as a roadmap for the entire nation. Additionally, he has been traveling across the country, highlighting his “Florida blueprint” and promoting his newly released memoir, “The Courage to Be Free.” 

However, DeSantis’ poll numbers in the early 2024 GOP presidential nomination race have slipped in recent weeks, as Trump has made gains. Additionally, he received plenty of pushback from fellow Republicans for recent comments describing the Russian war against Ukraine was a “territorial dispute” and saying that “I don’t think it’s in our interest to be getting into proxy war with China.”

Former two-term New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who unsuccessfully ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 and is seriously mulling another White House bid, took aim at DeSantis’ comments on Monday at a town hall in New Hampshire, calling them “naïve” and urging that “someone please place a wakeup call to Tallahassee.”

Some in DeSantis’ wider political orbit are raising concerns over recent developments.

A Republican operative, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, cautioned that DeSantis has “not done anything in the last two weeks or so to solidify support or build much confidence in people.”

A longtime GOP strategist with close ties to the Republican donor class told Fox News that “there is some angst and concern out there over the course of the last couple of weeks.”

“I think some people who know him have always had some degree of skepticism of his ability to translate on a larger scale what has happened in Florida… whether he could withstand the intensity and bright lights of the campaign as they get ramped up,” added the strategist, who also asked for anonymity.

However, the strategist emphasized that “there is a significant subset of the donor class that is looking for an alternative to Trump and I think by and large people still feel DeSantis represents the best choice in that regard.”

DeSantis, thanks to his aggressive culture wars battles the past couple of years as he has targeted the media, corporations and teachers’ unions, and his full-throttled pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions, has bolstered his image as a political fighter. Until last week, DeSantis had mostly deflected or ignored Trump’s barrages, as he equally brushed off repeated questions about a Republican White House run. 

The Florida governor started clapping back somewhat during a news conference and a Fox Nation interview last week, taking a jab at Trump’s moral code, spotlighting his own electoral record as a “winner” in contrast to Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election, highlighting his “no-nonsense” governing style in comparison to the tumult that characterized the Trump White House years, and mocking the derogatory nicknames Trump has repeatedly called the governor.

Never Back Down PAC is also jumping into the fray. The DeSantis-aligned super PAC on Tuesday went up with a video titled “Waco Crickets” which highlights media reports indicating the loud and boisterous crowd at the Trump rally this past weekend turned mostly quiet when the former presidential repeatedly attacked the Florida governor. The video was shared first with Fox News on Tuesday. 

However, Trump world questions whether DeSantis and his allies are ready for what may turn into an extremely combustible nomination showdown.

An adviser in the former president’s political orbit, who asked for anonymity to speak more freely, told Fox News last week that “the attacks that Ron has levied are weak at best.”

The adviser warned that “we wake up every morning thinking of how we can punch Ron DeSantis in the face.”

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