Gov. Ron DeSantis received a lot of praise this weekend during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, but not from former President Donald Trump, which could fuel more speculation about tension between the two GOP stars.
Even as speaker after speaker lauded DeSantis for fighting COVID-19 restrictions, Trump ignored the governor in his speech, declining to single out DeSantis and instead praising GOP governors in general for their pandemic response.
“Right here in our own nation it’s also far past time to declare independence from every last COVID mandate, it’s time, it’s time,” Trump said. “And you know, as early as when it first happened I let the governors make that decision, and we had some governors that did a great job and we had some governors that didn’t do a very good job, but I can tell you that the Republican governors did quite well.”
Trump touched on the COVID-19 response again toward the end of his speech, saying “we’re very proud of the job we did.”
“We did something that I don’t think anybody could have done and I want to thank certain governors (who) did a very good job, certain Republican governors did a very good job,” Trump said without naming DeSantis.
More:Rivalry between Trump and DeSantis in the spotlight as CPAC returns to Orlando
Trump gave shoutouts to other Florida politicians, such as US Sen. Rick Scott and US Rep. Matt Gaetz, both of whom attended his speech. DeSantis was not in the audience, according to his official schedule.
DeSantis and Trump both delivered speeches at CPAC but apparently didn’t cross paths and didn’t mention each other as talk swirls about a rivalry.
Previously:DeSantis slams ‘authoritarian rule’ in Australia and Canada as Russia invades Ukraine
Related:New poll has Florida Gov. DeSantis topping Trump in a 2024 Florida primary matchup
Trump hinted again Saturday that he may run for president in 2024. He reportedly is annoyed that DeSantis, who is among the most popular Republican leaders in the country and is being hyped as a potential 2024 candidate, hasn’t ruled out running against him. DeSantis was the top choice in last year’s CPAC straw poll to be the GOP presidential nominee in 2024 if Trump doesn’t run.
That animosity spilled into public view in January when the former president took a veiled shot at his protégé, calling politicians who won’t disclose their COVID-19 vaccine booster shot status “gutless.” DeSantis has declined to say whether he’s boosted.
DeSantis appeared to fire back at Trump, saying he regrets not pushing back against the nationwide lockdown Trump supported early in the pandemic to rein in the spread of the virus.
The conflict quickly died down, with both men saying they are on good terms. Trump called the idea of a feud between the two “fake news,” while DeSantis called it “totally bunk.”
Yet there continue to be subtle signs of tension.
There was even speculation from a prominent conservative writer leading up to CPAC that Trump’s circle maneuvered to give DeSantis a bad speaking slot. The governor spoke on Thursday afternoon, when many people had yet to arrive at the conference. The ballroom was not full for his speech, compared with a packed crowd for Trump.
Follow Herald-Tribune Political Editor Zac Anderson on Twitter at @zacjanderson. He can be reached at [email protected]
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism