Florida Gov. DeSantis on Tuesday responded to criticism from Donald Trump, saying that, unlike with the former president’s 2020 bid, voters re-elected him.
“You take a crisis situation like Covid, the good thing about it is that when you’re an elected executive, you have to make all kinds of decisions, you’ve got to steer that ship,” DeSantis said Tuesday at an event on education in response to a question about Trump’s recent attacks. “And the good thing is that people are able to render a judgment on that: whether they re-elect you or not.”
“I’m happy to say in my case, not only did we win re-election, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.
“What I would say is, that verdict has been rendered by the people of the state of Florida,” he added.
Video of DeSantis’ comments was posted to Twitter by the conservative website Townhall.
DeSantis, widely thought to be considering a 2024 run for president, also said that he’d grown accustomed to constant attacks from political rivals.
“I roll out of bed, I have people attacking me from all angles. It’s been happening for many many years,” he said.
His remarks come days after Trump — who has already launched a 2024 bid — ripped the Florida governor during campaign events on Saturday.
In interviews with reporters aboard his plane between rallies in New Hampshire and South Carolina, Trump slammed DeSantis as “disloyal” and accused him of having changed his views on Covid vaccines.
“He promoted the vaccine as much as anybody in this country promoted it. You remember that he closed Florida. Florida was closed. There were Republican governors that did not close,” Trump told reporters over the weekend.
“Florida was actually closed for a very long time. Remember, he closed the beaches and everything else,” Trump said of DeSantis. “You know? They’re trying to rewrite history.”
DeSantis has in recent months positioned himself to the right of Trump on issues surrounding Covid, particularly on vaccines. It’s a break from his previous support for vaccine development and distribution.
During a roundtable with Covid vaccine skeptics last month, DeSantis called on the state Supreme Court to impanel a grand jury to investigate whether pharmaceutical companies criminally misled Floridians about the side effects of vaccines.
DeSantis, once a vocal advocate for the vaccines, later backed off that advocacy. By January, he refused to say if he even got a booster.
Meanwhile, Trump, repeating a previous attack line in his weekend comments, also accused DeSantis of being “very disloyal,” pointing to the fact that he’d endorsed DeSantis during his initial gubernatorial run in 2018.
“I’m the one that chose him. I chose him — he asked me for support. He was losing,” Trump said. “He was getting ready to drop out unless I endorsed him.”
“Then when I hear he might run, you know, I consider that very disloyal,” Trump said.
In a series of recent polls, Trump has led DeSantis by 19 points or more. But there are signs that Trump’s support is diminished in parts of the country: A University of New Hampshire survey released this week showed DeSantis leading Trump 42 percent to 30 percent. New Hampshire traditionally holds the country’s first primary, following the Iowa caucuses.
Ali Vitali and Vaughn Hillyard contributed.