During his rocky Twitter rollout and Fox News interview, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t mention former President Donald Trump’s name.
He made some news – saying he would build a border wall and fire FBI chief Chris Wray – but there were only a couple of allusions to Trump.
But in a conference call with a number of journalists last night, the Florida governor dropped his reluctance to talk about the GOP front-runner.
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“Obviously Trump would turn out Democrats, because that’s their reflex,” he said.
DeSantis contrasted that with his ability to win over some Democrats in his landslide re-election victory last fall.
“I would be shocked if the former president wasn’t leading,” DeSantis said of the polls. “He has 100% name ID. He’s one of the most famous people in the world.”
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Asked how he would reunite the GOP if he does defeat Trump, DeSantis said: “You struggle to come back together after primaries… It’s not like I’m taking positions that are going to alienate people.” But some of his culture-war victories in Florida, including restrictions on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, may not play well in other parts of the country.
DeSantis kept stressing the early stage of the contest, though Trump has been attacking him for months. “I don’t think the average Republican primary voter is obsessing yet,” he said.
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Some of Trump’s criticism is drawing “helpful contrasts” that benefit him, the governor insisted. He said he didn’t support an omnibus spending bill that the then-president was pushing, and that he had added $8 trillion to the debt in four years.
“He also attacked me for voting against an amnesty bill that he endorsed,” DeSantis said, adding that even though there was some funding for a wall, Trump “tried to ram through” a “massive amnesty” for illegal immigrants.
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Whether the governor now goes after Trump in more public forums, he suggested with a hint of frustration that he didn’t have the bandwidth to do so during the Florida legislative session.
“I didn’t have the ability to fight all these battles,” DeSantis said. “I was the No. 1 target of corporate media.”