ROCHESTER, New Hampshire (AP) On Sunday night, Donald Trump pushed aside months of criticism and mockery of Ron DeSantis to celebrate his onetime Republican competitor as his newest fan, after the Florida governor stopped his presidential campaign and backed the former president.
It has become a regular routine for Trump to accept the support of someone who has attempted to challenge him. Nonetheless, at Sunday’s event in New Hampshire, Trump praised DeSantis without using the terms “DeSantimonious” or “DeSanctus,” effectively ending possibly the most heated battle of Republicans’ 2024 campaign.
“I just want to thank Ron and congratulate him on doing an excellent job,” Trump remarked at the start of his remarks. “He was really polite and endorsed me. I appreciate it, and I am looking forward to working with Ron. Trump referred to DeSantis as “a really terrific person.”
Earlier in the day, DeSantis said via video that his campaign would terminate two days before New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation GOP primary. However, aside from Trump’s glee on Sunday night, it was not the warmest of endorsements.
“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” DeSantis said, delivering matter-of-fact analysis with a forced smile and little praise for Trump.
“I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee, and I will keep it,” he said, before making a swipe at the last contestant, Nikki Haley. DeSantis labeled the former U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina governor as a representative of “the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged version of warmed-over corporatism.”
Trump seems unconcerned with DeSantis’ approach, striking a tone of friendship among fellow political warriors. “I will tell you it’s not easy,” Trump told reporters in Rochester on Sunday night. “They think it’s easy to do this stuff, right?” “It is not easy.”
Then Trump launched into his normal rally address, attacking President Joe Biden, the political media, “the deep state” and “warmongers” in Washington, as well as the criminal justice system, which has indicted him four times and has 91 felony counts pending in multiple trials.
He spent more time blasting Haley than applauding DeSantis, portraying her as a tool of the political establishment that he has defied. He offered broad promises of peace and prosperity, promising to reverse inflation and put an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine without providing specific proposals. And he repeated his claims about losing to Biden in 2020 owing to fraud.
A raucous crowd at Rochester’s old opera theater laughed, yelled, and roared throughout.
“The great silent majority is rising like never before,” Trump stated.
DeSantis joins unsuccessful GOP candidates such as South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy in embracing the former president. After suspending their campaigns, Trump foes Chris Christie of New Jersey and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas declined to endorse Trump; Hutchinson did, however, endorse Haley on Saturday.
Brenda Moneypenny, 64, of Alton, waited in the cold for two hours to see Trump on Sunday night. Moneypenny, who produced her driver’s license to confirm her last name, stated that she has pondered Haley, particularly because of the opportunity to elect the first woman to the presidency. However, the Republican-leaning independent claimed she never considered DeSantis.
Moneypenny called the governor “too flim-flamsy.” “He needs better campaign staff. He doesn’t have anyone giving him any favors right now.
She eventually chose on Trump: “Tried and true,” she said.
Throughout the campaign, the former president seemed to enjoy skewering DeSantis, frequently stating that it was a personal grievance since he saw the governor’s decision to run in the first place as an act of treason. In a heated 2018 GOP primary for Florida governor, Trump endorsed DeSantis, who was then a congressman. DeSantis went on to win both the nomination and the general election. By the time DeSantis won a landslide reelection four years later, he was preparing for his own White House bid.
As recently as November, Trump visited Florida and addressed a loud audience at a state GOP conference while holding a sign that proclaimed, “Florida is Trump country.” That evening, Trump did not bring up DeSantis until more than 30 minutes into his speech. Even then, he was bragging about surveys showing his lead against the governor.
“I endorsed him, and he became a rocket ship in 24 hours,” Trump remarked, alleging DeSantis begged for his support. “Now he’s like a wounded falling bird from the sky.”
Trump never debated DeSantis or any other 2024 rival. He has stated that he will not until one shows to be a legitimate challenge to his nomination.
DeSantis has focused his campaign in recent months in Iowa, where he came second in last week’s caucuses, 30 percentage points behind Trump and narrowly ahead of Haley. Haley, meantime, has long viewed New Hampshire as a potential springboard for her home-state South Carolina primary next month.
In Iowa, APVoteCast surveys of caucusgoers found that DeSantis backers were significantly more likely than Haley supporters to consider themselves conservatives who would support Trump regardless of whether he won the nomination and faced President Joe Biden in November. If that tendency continues in New Hampshire, Trump may benefit from DeSantis’ withdrawal, and whatever he gains might widen his lead and undermine Haley’s attempt to claim momentum. Indeed, Trump’s advisers have stated that they believe DeSantis’ support across the country will transfer substantially to Trump.
Trump announced on Sunday that he won New Hampshire’s 2016 primary by around 20 points. He lost the battleground state in two general elections.
In the last hours of the New Hampshire campaign, Trump will have to balance his legal issues with the duties of winning another term. On Monday, Trump will be in New York for a civil defamation trial resulting from a columnist’s claims that he sexually assaulted her. Then he plans to return to New Hampshire for an evening rally in Laconia.
“I don’t have to be there,” he stated about the court proceedings. I could need your prayers. But, see, that’s what it is.”
His first criminal trial, stemming from claims that he is responsible for his followers’ Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol, is set to begin March 5, the day before the Super Tuesday primary slate.
“It’s a disgrace,” Trump said.