by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
James Antle of the Washington Examiner reports on former President Donald Trump’s interesting line of attack against a likely primary election opponent.
Former President Donald Trump has been taking preemptive shots against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), comparing his most formidable 2024 primary foe to Republican leaders distrusted by the conservative base.
The beleaguered establishment figures with whom DeSantis has been linked include former House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Bush family, and Karl Rove.
Attacks on one pre-Trump Republican leader may still be a bridge too far for conservative true believers: Ronald Reagan.
Republican operatives and conservative activists told the Washington Examiner it would be a mistake for the Trump campaign to keep up the Reagan-DeSantis comparisons.
“This is an endorsement, not an attack,” one Republican campaign professional said.
In a preview of Trump’s case against the Florida governor ahead of an expected GOP clash of the titans, Axios quoted a “Trump confidant” taking a shot at DeSantis’s populist bona fides by pointing to his Reaganite record.
“There’s a pre-Trump Ron and there’s a post-Trump Ron,” the Trump associate said of DeSantis. “He used to be a Reagan Republican. That’s where he comes from. He’s now awkwardly trying to square his views up with the populist nationalist feeling of that party.”
Trump has been arguing that DeSantis is an establishment Trojan horse, imitating the former president’s combative personality, rhetoric, and populist issue positions while raking in the support of anti-Trump forces inside the GOP. If MAGA lets DeSantis into the city, the argument goes, Ryan, Rove, and Jeb Bush will jump out.
Some Republicans drawn to Trump would like to see him make a break from even older versions of the party. Reagan pursued free trade agreements and signed into law an immigration amnesty. He also symbolized the GOP’s commitment to free markets and limited government despite the growth of federal spending during his two terms, at a time when some on the Right would like to use state power from traditionalist or conservative ends.