This weekend, former president Donald Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis dug in for what is anticipated to be a contentious and personal contest for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.
Although the governor spoke to Republican groups in Texas and gave a speech on Sunday afternoon at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, Mr. Trump energized supporters on Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside of Washington, an event Mr. DeSantis ignored. After there, the two will travel to Iowa, the site of the first GOP primary.
Mr. DeSantis, the front-runner among the other candidates, is anticipated to officially enter the race when the Florida legislature session concludes in May. Mr. Trump has already started his campaign. The former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley is one of Mr. Trump’s opponents, who already oppose him. Several more are anticipated to enter the race.
“We’re leading every Republican by big proportions,” Mr. Trump asserted on Saturday at CPAC, a conservative conference where the former president continues to draw support from Make America Great Again supporters. If we don’t return, this country won’t be able to handle it. “Our getting back in the White House is their worst nightmare—but also our country’s only hope.”
According to event organizers, Mr. Trump handily won the CPAC presidential candidates straw poll, which was announced on Saturday, with 62% of attendees, versus Mr. DeSantis’ 20% and others far below that.
The Reagan Library lecture on Sunday afternoon is Mr. DeSantis’ most well-known recent excursion outside of Florida. He will go to Iowa on Friday, stopping in Davenport and Des Moines along the way to hold book discussions. Three days later, Mr. Trump will make his first trip to the state since he declared his candidacy when he speaks in Davenport about education policy, a subject that Mr. DeSantis has helped move to the top of the GOP agenda.
In a national Emerson College poll of Republican primary voters conducted last week, Mr. Trump led Mr. DeSantis by 30 points while all other projected candidates were trailing by double digits. In other polls conducted in states with early primaries, Mr. DeSantis was in the lead. Future plans for Social Security and Medicare are a potential flashpoint between the two. While pointing out that Mr. DeSantis, in his capacity as a congressman, voted for non-binding motions to make changes to the programs, Mr. Trump has sworn not to touch them.
This Monday, Mr. Trump posted on his social media account, “I think folks are finding out that he wanted to CUT SOCIAL SECURITY & RAISE THE MINIMUM AGE TO AT LEAST 70, at least 4 times. Similar to Medicare, big cuts were desired. HE IS THE TYPE OF PERSON WHO WHEELCHAIRS OVER THE CLIFF.
The president remarked on Saturday, “We’re not going back to folks that want to destroy our great Social Security system, even some in our own party, I wonder who that may be.
Mr. DeSantis has made an effort to disassociate himself from that viewpoint because his state is full of retirees. As Republicans, “we’re not going to meddle with Social Security,” he declared on Fox News on Thursday. Mr. DeSantis is visiting Florida and other states as part of a book tour. In his public appearances, he is essentially practicing a stump speech, portraying himself as a fighter who gets things done and citing conflicts with Walt Disney Co. regarding a law that forbids teaching young children about sex and gender.
He informs the audience, “Florida is where ‘woke’ goes to die. He criticizes both the Biden administration and the out-of-touch GOP establishment. He refers to Florida as a model for the rest of the nation in an apparent reference to his larger goals.
Mr. Trump has made a number of policy videos covering a variety of subjects, such as trade and immigration, in which he proposes to put significant tariffs on imported goods. He proposed Thursday to create future “freedom cities” on federal territory and to create flying automobiles, or “vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles for families and individuals,” in a video and on social media. Additionally, Mr. Trump promised to offer “baby bonuses” to entice couples to have kids. He also suggested that the nation seek to demolish unsightly structures and rebuild “towering monuments to our genuine American heroes.”
Mr. Trump promised not to spend money on foreign wars if re-elected in a speech he gave on Saturday in which he attacked American spending on the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Trump continues to assert incorrectly that the 2020 election was rigged against him while emphasizing policy initiatives on the advice of advisers. In addition, he is the subject of numerous legal issues and criminal inquiries. Mr. Trump, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, said to a Newsmax reporter on Saturday that he would continue to run for president even if he were to be indicted. He criticized the numerous probes and reiterated his fraud allegation during the majority of his Saturday speech.
As for his presidential rivals, according to aides, he has only been interested in Mr. DeSantis and has become impatient with the attention the governor has received. Republicans claimed it was time for the party to adopt a new standard-bearer after Trump-endorsed candidates’ underwhelming performances in the 2022 midterm elections.
Around a dozen prominent Republicans, including several members of Mr. Trump’s administration, have thought about challenging him because of that mindset. Along with Ms. Haley, Mike Pence, a former vice president, and Mike Pompeo, a former secretary of state, are also anticipated to run.