Donny & Ronny: A G.O.P. Cold War in South Florida

Trump and DeSantis
Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
January 24, 2022

It’s no wonder that a year after he left office, there’s a certain hunger out there for a new season of Feud: Donald Trump vs. Whomever, and it’s no wonder that the national media has zoomed in on Florida, where the former president resides ever-so-close to an emerging rival: Ron DeSantis, the state’s Republican governor. DeSantis rose to national prominence during the pandemic as MAGA’s biggest culture warrior, bucking the scientific consensus on lockdowns and mask mandates while stoking the base’s stolen-election fantasies. DeSantis is also just Yale-and-Harvard enough for country club donors to feel comfortable writing him checks. The political-media class has dubbed him “Trump 2.0,” which is precisely the sort of comparison that, in an earlier era, would have driven Trump 1.0 nuts.

Over the past year, the press has circled the delectable possibility of a Trump-DeSantis grudge match. The tensions appeared to boil over earlier this month when Trump defended the science behind vaccines and described politicians who refuse to disclose their booster status as “gutless”—a comment that was widely interpreted as a crack at DeSantis. DeSantis, without naming Trump, shot back that the previous administration had misstepped by listening to Dr. Anthony Fauci. Soon after, it was reported that Trump had said that DeSantis “didn’t have a chance” of winning the 2018 governor’s race without his help; DeSantis, who barely squeaked through that election with a 0.4 percent margin, kept his thoughts to himself.