Former president Donald Trump may be the only GOP candidate who has announced a 2024 White House run, but the primary jockeying has already begun — and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ name is clearly top of mind for many.
At this point Trump’s rivalry with DeSantis is well-documented; DeSantis is consistently leading in the polls against Trump. A recent Wall Street Journal poll showed DeSantis leading Trump, carrying 52% compared to Trump’s 38%. “I don’t know if he is running. I think if he runs, he could hurt himself very badly. I really believe he could hurt himself badly,” Trump said in November, just days before he announced his 2024 run. “I don’t think it would be good for the party.”
“I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering – I know more about him than anybody – other than, perhaps, his wife,” Trump added, while referring to the Florida governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
While DeSantis has mostly not given in to Trump’s jeers, he made one comment after the midterms, a loss for many Trump-back candidates. “One of the things I’ve learned in this job is when you’re leading, when you’re getting things done, you take incoming fire, that’s just the nature of it,” DeSantis said, adding: “We’ve focused on results and leadership, and at the end of the day, I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night.”
But recently another potential GOP candidate, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, appears to be jumping in the fray. As the Daily Beast noted, her staff has also been picking fights with DeSantis in what has become a one-sided feud with the Florida politician. The first hints of Noem’s feud with DeSantis happened in February 2021 at a CPAC conference straw poll. In the straw poll for GOP favorite—which excluded Trump—DeSantis earned 43% of the vote, while Noem came in second with 11% of the vote.
During her speech at the conference, the South Dakota governor seemed to take aim at the straw poll frontrunner: “We’ve got Republican governors across this country pretending they didn’t shut down their states—that they didn’t close their beaches, that they didn’t mandate masks, that they didn’t need to issue shelter-in-place [orders]. Now, I’m not picking fights with Republican governors. All I’m saying is that we need leaders with grit. That their first instinct is to make the right decision, that they don’t backtrack and then try to fool you into the fact that they never made the wrong decision.”
In November 2022, after Trump announced his White House run, Noem told the New York Times that she didn’t think Trump offered “the best chance” for the GOP to win in 2024, perhaps signaling a run herself.
More recently, as the Daily Beast highlighted, her communications director, Ian Fury, sent a fiery email to a reporter, pitting her against DeSantis. “Governor Noem was the only Governor in America on national television defending the Dobbs decision,” Fury wrote earlier this month. “Where was Governor DeSantis? Hiding behind a 15-week ban. Does he believe that 14-week-old babies don’t have a right to live?”
Fury originally responded to a request for comment from the National Review about a separate topic, before sending this unprompted email comparing the two governor’s views on abortion, according to the reporter.
Noem has also been mentioned as potentially making Trump’s VP shortlist; Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said she would be a “pretty stellar” alternative to another potential Trump running mate, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Seeing as DeSantis seems unfazed by Noem’s repeated taunts, and Trump is threatened by DeSantis, one Republican strategist opined to the Daily Beast on why Noem has pitted herself against DeSantis so publicly: “I think what Noem gets out of this is currying favor with Trump and raising her stock as a potential VP pick.”