Trump, DeSantis brawl over COVID, 2024 is talk of Florida


In happier times, Florida’s Gov. DeSantis speaks during then-President Trump’s “homecoming” rally in Sunrise, Florida in 2019.

It’s an official all-out political brawl, and Florida’s favorite political soap opera.

The “Don and Ron Show” has made it to The New York Times.

No small thing, the battle of these two egos, these days the political standard for the Florida and national GOP.

One of the early cliffhangers of the rift, over COVID-19 policy, is still hot: Did he or didn’t he?

All of Florida — including Palm Beach resident Donald Trump — wants to know if Gov. Ron DeSantis got his COVID booster shoot.

The simple question — and DeSantis’ reluctance to answer it — is what first placed the growing rift between protege and disciple DeSantis and his former dethroned idol, President Trump in the spotlight.

He got the booster, Trump publicly acknowledged once at a rally, where he was booed, and then on an interview with One America Network, where he bashed — without naming names — politicians who won’t reveal their vaccination status.

“You gotta say it!” Trump said in that know-it-all tone his supporters so loved and embraced for themselves as a modus of communication.

You can tell the ex-president doesn’t get out of Mar-a-Lago and around Florida much because vaccine skeptics are a mean, scary bunch.

So, for once, we, his detractors, applauded the former president for backing the COVID-vaccine booster rollout where in counts, in a conservative forum full of skeptics.

But, Trump being Trump, he pushed harder.

‘Gutless’ politicians

“I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed, and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?’ ” Trump said. “Because they had the vaccine, and they’re answering like — in other words, the answer is ‘yes,’ but they don’t want to say it, because they’re gutless. You gotta say it, whether you had it or not, say it.”

He didn’t have to say the name.

Everyone knew whom he was talking about — DeSantis, who promoted vaccines when he handed them out like political favors, but now rarely mentions them in favor of peddling treatment for the COVID infected. It’s calculated political strategy in pursuit of the reelection votes from those who believe the devil’s hand is in the making of vaccines.

So imagine that, instead of throwing shade to his baby mini-me, the father figure calls DeSantis “gutless!”

So true, Mr. Trump!

See, how easy it is to tell it like it really is.

DeSantis should stop being so spineless about his vaccination status and tell the public whether he got the booster or not.

Because, you know, that magic wand called leadership — the act of not fearing politically alienating anti-vaxxers but instead modeling better behavior — can make a difference in a divided population like Florida.

From errand boy to king

Yet, the pandemic isn’t the true power struggle going on between the men, caught up in a drama reminiscent of Gloucester and his bastard son Edmund in King Lear.

Theirs is a struggle for the ultimate power: the U.S. presidency. Both want to be contenders in 2024.

Trump helped put then-Congressman DeSantis on the political map by turning him into this errand boy in Congress.

DeSantis delivered Florida to Trump and solidified the GOP’s grip on the state Legislature.

And now, Trump can’t stop telling his associates that he wants to hear from DeSantis “the magic words,” meaning an endorsement, reports the Times’ Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman.

And as the world turns in Tallahassee and at Mar-a-Lago, my bet is on Trump losing the big battle.

Florida can be very friendly, but often it’s lip service, a smokescreen. (We don’t do foreigners well — and that includes New Yorkers.)

DeSantis has every elected official in Florida shaking in their boots by using the strongman tactics he learned from Trump. He isn’t just a governor. He wants to rule over every part of every Floridian’s life, from the womb to whether they live or die from COVID.

He has been the best of Trump disciples, now better than the master because he’s smarter and — although I don’t think so — by Florida standards, he’s preppy and more polished.

What the rest of the nation thinks, remains to be seen.

But dear Mr. Trump, you’ve fallen to mighty King DeSantis.

Well, at least in Floriduh.

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