Gov. Ron DeSantis has been trying not to alienate former president Donald Trump’s voters since as far back as 2018, ABC News first reported.
The media outlet obtained two and a half hours of video footage from the then-congressman’s debate prep sessions. The footage revealed that DeSantis was eyeing Trump’s base as he tried to carve out space for himself among voters in the state where the former president was and is wildly popular.
“Is there any issue which you disagree with President Trump?” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who’s since endorsed Trump’s reelection campaign, asked in one of the sessions.
“I have to figure out how to do this,” DeSantis replied with a deep sigh.
“Obviously there is because, I mean, I voted contrary to him in the Congress,” he said. “I have to frame it in a way that’s not going to piss off all his voters.”
He then said that he would “do what I think is right” and support the then-president’s agenda. “If I have a disagreement, I talk to him in private,” he said.
The footage offers more insight into the governor’s complicated relationship with Trump, which has grown contentious as DeSantis gears up for an expected presidential run against Trump in 2024.
In recent months, DeSantis has used his current role to usher through headline-grabbing legislation, all in a bid to sway voters away from Trump’s base. He’s even lifted pages from Trump’s campaign handbook, like boosting a media circuit that’s friendly to his administration.
But Trump has fired back in a pretty cutting way: Aside from constantly blasting the governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious” on social media, he convinced most of Florida’s Republican congressional delegation to endorse his campaign—even after the governor specifically asked several of them not to—and then flexed it in a photo op.
This could be part of why DeSantis is reportedly considering skipping an exploratory committee for his campaign altogether. According to ABC News, the governor is “itching to start making his argument to voters by touting his accomplishments and to start pushing back against Trump’s numerous attacks.”