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President Trumps Hold Rally For Governor Candidate Ron DeSantis
Then-President Donald Trump shakes hands with then-Rep. Ron DeSantis during a campaign rally in Estero, Florida, in 2018.Jayme Gershen / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Trump and his super PAC target DeSantis in new TV ads

New ads from Trump's orbit attack DeSantis as disloyal.

By and

Former President Donald Trump and his allied super PAC are up with new TV ads Wednesday morning that paint Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis as disloyal, criticizing him for considering a presidential bid against his former ally.

Trump's new spot is his presidential campaign's first television ad. In it, a narrator recounts how Trump's 2018 endorsement of DeSantis played a significant role in his underdog victory in that year's Florida Republican gubernatorial primary, when DeSantis, then a member of Congress, ran against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who had been long seen as the heir apparent to the governor's mansion.

The spot quotes DeSantis saying: "I'd like to thank our president for standing by me when it wasn't necessary." And it goes on to include footage of a 2018 TV ad from DeSantis fawning over Trump — it shows DeSantis reading his infant Trump's book, teaching another to "build the wall" with blocks, and teaching one Trump's "Make America Great Again' slogan.

"Unfortunately, instead of being grateful, DeSantis is now attacking the very man who saved his career. Isn't it time DeSantis remembers how he got to where he is?" the ad says.

And a new spot from the Trump-aligned MAGA Inc. super PAC, which has gone after DeSantis before, points to votes the Florida Republican took while in the House of Representatives to accuse him of supporting "deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare."

"I thought DeSantis was one of the good ones, but he's just another career politician," a man says in the ad.

The ads come as Trump continues to try to discredit DeSantis — who has not officially announced any bid but has been traveling internationally and across the country (including to states with early presidential nominating contests) — in the eyes of conservatives before DeSantis officially decides whether or not to run for president.

Trump leads DeSantis by 15 percentage points among national Republican primary voters in the new NBC News poll of a hypothetical presidential primary field. And the majority of Republicans are also rallying around Trump as he faces multiple investigations, with just 26% saying it's important to nominate a candidate who isn't distracted and can instead focus on defeating President Joe Biden.

While DeSantis has made his interest in a presidential bid clear, he hasn't overtly criticized Trump. He's instead taken more veiled swipes, including:

  • Responding to news of Trump's impending indictment by replying : "I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just, I can’t speak to that."
  • While discussing his response to the pandemic during a speech last weekend, DeSantis contrasted himself with Trump (without naming the former president) by saying: " Leaders take the bull by the horns and make the decisions for themselves. They don't subcontract out their leadership to health bureaucrats like Dr. [Anthony] Fauci."
  • He contrasted his leadership style with Trump's in a March interview with British journalist Piers Morgan, saying: The way we run the government, I think, is no daily drama, focus on the big picture and put points on the board."
  • And in that same interview, DeSantis responded to Trump's pejorative nicknames for him: "You can call me whatever you want, just as long as you also call me a winner because that’s what we’ve been able to do in Florida."

And a super PAC aligned with DeSantis, Never Back Down, has run a TV ad criticizing Trump for attacking Republicans like DeSantis instead of staying focused on Democrats.