The former president continues to attack his probable rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, as the 2024 presidential campaign is moving forward. DeSantis, who recently visited Iowa, has remained non-committal as to when he will officially enter the race, though many analysts believe it will come after the Florida legislative session. And analysts are concerned that a fierce Trump-DeSantis primary fight could fracture the party and allow Democrats to win the White House again in 2024.
Jenna Ellis, a former attorney for President Donald Trump, hosts a weekday morning program on American Family Radio. She recalls a primary fight wasn't a problem in 2016, the last time the Republicans had an open primary.
"The Republican Party did coalesce around the nominee who was then Donald Trump and who won that presidential election," she says. "So, I think we're going to see the same thing [this time], regardless whether it's Donald Trump who's the nominee or Ron DeSantis or someone else."
But on Thursday's show, her guest – investigative journalist Pedro Gonzalez – predicted a potential Trump-DeSantis primary battle would be "really bloody." He challenged the narrative that this election cycle is no different than 2016, pointing out that Trump's primary challenger then was Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
"Ron DeSantis is not Ted Cruz," Gonzalez stated bluntly. "Ron DeSantis is the most respected conservative governor in the country who has actually taken policies that you could characterize as 'Trumpian,' but are actually to the right of Trump in many ways.
"He's actually gone from this stage of talking about things to implementing them," the political editor of Chronicles magazine said of the Florida governor.
Gonzalez offered the recent example of DeSantis pulling the liquor license of a major hotel in Florida because it had hosted a drag queen event with children in attendance.
"That is an enormous step in this populous right direction – and Trump never did anything that came close to that," he told Ellis. "He talked about it, for sure; but he never did it. So basically, what you have is a guy who's running for president by running to the left of the most popular conservative governor in the country."
Gonzalez, who has supported Trump in the past, shared that he's gained a new perspective. "I'm seeing all of this as someone who started writing about politics because of Trump and in defense of Trump – and I defended him at every turn, on every issue," he said. "But I couldn't ignore the disconnect between the rhetoric and reality – particularly on issues like immigration."
The former president seems to be "doubling down on everything," Gonzalez added. "Basically, I don't think Trump has really learned anything from his mistakes and the things that undermined his administration," he argued. "And as part of his kind of like 'death spiral,' he's just alienating allies and punching the Right constantly."
Regardless, Ellis recognizes that the stakes are high as 2024 approaches. "I think Republicans and even moderates and some Democrats know that Joe Biden and the Democrat Party in leadership over the last two years have utterly destroyed the country to the best of their ability," said the radio host.
"Getting a Republican back in the White House is what's it's going to take to stop the Democrats – and I think that all my fellow conservatives are going to understand that as well, and we are going to see a coalescing around the nominee."