One of the most frustrating parts of reporting on Donald Trump is his inscrutability. The man is a closed book.
He would never, say, have a meltdown following a disappointing election and, in a panic, start publicly attacking a prominent Republican whom others in the party are shifting toward.
Oh, wait. Yes, he would absolutely do that.
On Thursday night, the former president began trashing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in his strongest terms yet after allies in conservative media began heaping fawning praise on the governor.
“NewsCorp, which is Fox, the Wall Street Journal, and the no longer great New York Post…, is all in for Governor Ron DeSanctimonious,” Trump wrote in a statement sent to reporters and on posted on Truth Social, the Twitter clone Trump had built when he was booted from that platform over the insurrection. “An average REPUBLICAN Governor with great Public Relations.”
While Republicans mostly underperformed nationally in Tuesday’s midterm elections, turning a red wave into more of a dribble, the GOP fared much better in Florida, where DeSantis coasted to an easy victory.
At his election party, the 44-year-old governor gave a victory speech that sounded a lot like a potential presidential campaign launch. Some in the crowd even chanted “two more years” in a sign they wanted him to run for the White House in 2024, rather than complete a full term as governor.
The next day — amid reports that Trump was privately fuming that the candidates he had endorsed, such as Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, hadn’t fared better — the New York Post, the tabloid newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, printed a front page that crowned the governor as a “young GOP star” and “DeFUTURE.”
The next day the same paper printed a front cover that called the former president “Trumpty Dumpty,” mocking him for not building a wall on the US–Mexico border and for having a “great fall.”
The Wall Street Journal, another Murdoch paper, also called Trump “the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser,” noting his string of disappointments in the 2018, 2020, 2021, and 2022 elections.
Even Trump’s own former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany went on Murdoch’s Fox News and said Trump needed to “put on pause” any plans he (definitely) has to announce another presidential campaign before Georgia votes in the Senate runoff election next month between Herschel Walker and Sen. Raphael Warnock.
When McEnany was asked if Trump should head down to Georgia to campaign for Walker, she responded by saying DeSantis should go. Ouch.
Trump had already been wary of DeSantis’s popularity, first publicly using the “DeSanctimonious” nickname against him at a rally on Saturday in Pennsylvania.
But all the attention the Florida governor has been receiving has evidently sent Trump into a full-blown panic that he may be losing his once ironclad grip over the Republican party.
In his Thursday night screed against DeSantis, Trump took credit for the governor’s victory in his 2018 primary and general election.
He even made the astonishing claim that he had “sent in” FBI and Department of Justice attorneys after the vote to end “ballot theft” and assure DeSantis was victorious over Democrat Andrew Gillum.
“The ballot theft immediately ended, just prior to them running out of the votes necessary to win,” Trump said. “I stopped his Election from being stolen.”
This claim — which, to be clear, would be illegal were there any truth to it — immediately raised eyebrows. When asked about Trump’s claim that he sent the FBI to stop counting votes in the 2018 Florida governor race, the FBI press office told BuzzFeed News it had "no comment."
“Ron DeSanctimonious is playing games!” Trump complained in his statement. “The Fake News asks him if he’s going to run if President Trump runs, and he says, ‘I’m only focused on the Governor’s race, I’m not looking into the future.’”
“Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer,” Trump said.
Over on Truth Social, Trump spent a lot of his Thursday night and Friday morning engaging in self-care by resharing adoring posts from fans, many of them laced with the QAnon collective delusion. One of the posts called on DeSantis “to understand” that diehard Republicans want a second Trump term.
“It is total shots fired,” an anonymous Trump adviser told Politico of his escalating attacks. “It is not what I would have done if it were totally up to me, but you can’t argue with Donald Trump’s tactics. They work. He is savage but effective. He was never going to stay restrained for long.”
In that spirit, Team Trump ended Thursday by sending out one last email to reporters: an invitation to his Mar-a-Lago compound in Florida on Tuesday night for “a special announcement.”
2024 is here.