Former President Donald Trump was spotted golfing with Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday after the Florida governor’s name has been mentioned as a top Republican hopeful for the 2024 presidential race as he continued to hit out against a controversy over COVID-19 vaccines.
Trump was pictured having conversations with DeSantis during their outing at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.
The photos of the two men together underlined De Santis’s closeness with Trump as the former president has remained mum on whether he’ll run in 2024 even as Republicans are jockeying for position to take his place atop the party should he decide against another bid.
De Santis has been among the loudest opponent of strict lockdowns and has pressed for Florida and its municipalities to be wide open – a stance that was criticized throughout the pandemic, but one that has gotten a new appraisal in more recent times when Florida’s virus numbers stood up well against states that locked down more severely, like California.
He’s also seemed to skirt controversy over a vaccine-distribution program that had come under a microscope for alleged favoritism in a 60 Minutes report last week.
De Santis has disputed he favored wealthy neighborhoods and also entered into a special deal with the Publix grocery store chain because of campaign donations from the company – charges De Santis strongly denied in a point-by-point presentation titled FACTS VS. SMEARS, according to the New York Times.
‘We have too many people in this party who don’t fight back’ De Santis told the gathering, the Times reported. ‘You can’t be scared of the Left.’
His stridency seems to be paying off – not only in an apparently friendly close friendship with Trump, but also among the GOP faithful.
De Santis led a poll of Republicans when it came to potential nominees for the 2024 GOP ticket, according to Newsweek in late March, reporting that he garnered 17 percent compared to former Vice President Mike Pence’s No. 2 showing at 16 percent.
Meanwhile, Trump hasn’t said whether he’ll run again in 2024 – a decision that could derail a possible De Santis bid.
On Sunday, Trump was seen taking a few swings while wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat.
Sunday’s gathering comes just a day after Trump’s invitation-only speech at his new home inside his Mar-a-Lago resort. Saturday’s speech was the final address of the Republican National Committee’s weekend donor summit in Palm Beach.
Most of the RNC’s closed-door gathering was held at a luxury hotel a few miles away from Mar-a-Lago; attendees were bused to Trump’s club for his remarks.
While Trump’s advisers had said he would emphasize his commitment to his party and Republican unity, Trump veered sharply from his prepared remarks and instead slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a ‘stone-cold loser’. He also mocked McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who was Trump’s transportation secretary.
Trump claimed that McConnell is a ‘dumb son of a b**ch’ and said he was ‘disappointed’ in his vice president, Mike Pence.
He said McConnell had not thanked him properly for putting Chao, who was labor secretary under President George W. Bush, in his Cabinet. McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.
Trump also took aim at Dr Anthony Fauci, saying the nation’s top infectious disease expert is ‘so full of crap’ because he wants Americans to wear five masks. Trump mocked Fauci for his poor throwing arm, which he demonstrated while throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a Washington Nationals baseball game at Nationals Park last season.
He said that Fauci was well-liked by the public simply because he contradicted Trump. Fauci, the nation’s top epidemiologist, has been director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.
Trump also claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine should be named after him as he admonished them to call it ‘the Trumpcine’.
And while Trump’s remarks left some feeling uncomfortable, others stayed silent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich did not defend Trump as he left Palm Beach on Sunday.
‘We are much better off if we keep focusing on the Democrats. Period,’ Gingrich said.
The weekend summit featured DeSantis and Arkansas Sen Tom Cotton, among other early 2024 presidential prospects. In his remarks Friday night, Cotton leaned into the GOP’s culture wars, attacking the Democrats’ positions on transgender youth, voter ID laws and Major League Baseball’s dec… (Read more)