WASHINGTON – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis slammed MAGA supporters in Congress as “listless vessels” who abandoned their conservative principles to follow former President Donald Trump.
Rebuking those who call him a “RINO” – or Republican in Name Only – the Sunshine State governor told The Florida Standard that members of the GOP must follow their politics – not a persona – to win back the White House from President Biden in 2024.
“If all we are is listless vessels that just supposed to follow, you know, whatever happens to come down the pipeline through Truth Social every morning, that’s not going to be a durable movement,” DeSantis told the conservative local media outlet in an interview published Saturday.
“Ultimately, a movement can’t be about the personality of one individual, the movement has got to be about what are you trying to achieve on behalf of the American people? And that’s got to be based in principle,” he said.
Once billed as Trump’s protégé, DeSantis had spent much of the year polling second to the firebrand 45th president, before slipping below opponents Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in recent polls.
DeSantis said that on the whole, he does not believe the majority of Republicans consider him to be a false actor for the GOP’s priorities – but that the notion comes from “a strand in our party that views supporting Trump as whether you are a RINO or not.”
“You could be the most conservative person since sliced bread, and unless you’re kissing [Trump’s] rear end, they will somehow call you a RINO,” DeSantis said. “So it’s been totally detached from principle and what you actually believe and results, and it’s more about, you know, just what faction you happen to do.”
He said the sentiment does not just affect him, but hurts Republican leaders in Congress, as well.
“There’ll be people who are huge Trump supporters like in Congress who have like incredibly liberal, left-wing records that [are] really just atrocious, and yet they’re viewed as by some of these folks as like as like really, really good,” he said.
“Then you have other people, you know, like a Congressman Chip Roy (R-Texas), who’s endorsed me [and] Congressman Thomas Massie – these guys have records of principle fighting the swamp that are second to none. And yet they will be attacked by some of these people and called ‘RINOs,’” he added.
Adding to his attacks, DeSantis criticized Trump for failing to “drain the swamp” in DC by ridding the federal government of establishment bureaucrats – and pledged to do so himself.
“Donald Trump said he was going to drain the swamp, but yet he kept [FBI Director] Christopher Ray until the end of his term. You know, he didn’t fire [former NIAD director Anthony] Fauci,” he said, pledging to oust Ray on “Day 1” of his presidency, if elected.
DeSantis’ anti-MAGA comments came two days after a political consulting firm working for his super PAC revealed they had advised the governor to “defend Donald Trump in absentia” from attacks from Christie on the debate stage, as Trump, 77, has declined to participate in the first Republican primary showdown set for Wednesday in Milwaukee.
The same DeSantis strategists also urged him to “hammer Vivek Ramaswamy” during the debates, though the governor never even mentioned the anti-woke entrepreneur by name in the 20-minute Florida Standard interview.
Source : New York Times