“I didn’t think even before all this that … [a] former president should have to run again,” DeSantis replied. “I think that there’s just … too many voters who, he’s a dealbreaker for them.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
DeSantis — who was among the group of candidates who said during the first Republican presidential debate last month that they would support Trump as the party’s nominee even if he was convicted — told O’Donnell that a convicted nominee has little chance, if any, of getting elected to the nation’s highest office.
“I think the chance of getting elected president after being convicted of a felony is as close to zero as you can get,” he said.
DeSantis also told O’Donnell that Trump broke a promise by adding trillions to the national debt.
“Republicans talk big when they’re out of power, but when they get in they don’t put their money where their mouth is,” DeSantis said. “Trump added almost $8 trillion to the debt in four years. He ran saying he was going to eliminate the national debt, maybe over an eight-year period but he did make that promise. And they did the opposite.”
The comments, similar to earlier criticisms DeSantis made in August, are part of a broader set of rhetorical jabs the governor has recently lodged against his former political ally on the campaign trail. DeSantis and the others running for the Republican nomination trail the former president in the polls, leaving the candidates looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their party’s front-runner.
In some ways, DeSantis’s tepid critiques have evolved over time on the campaign trail.
At a town hall in New Hampshire in June, DeSantis ducked a question on whether Trump “violated the peaceful transfer of power,” even as he showed a new willingness to criticize the former president on other fronts.
Many Republican presidential candidates have tiptoed around the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. But DeSantis stands out for how carefully he has avoided placing direct blame on the former president, even as he has gone after him on other matters. He has responded to questions about the Jan. 6 insurrection by calling it everything from “unacceptable” on the day of the attack to, later, “a dead horse” and simply a media obsession.
In July, DeSantis shifted course and knocked Trump for his behavior on Jan. 6 — but he did not endorse a criminal investigation or charges against Trump and reiterated now-common Republican allegations that the Justice Department is politically biased. That month, he also suggested that, if elected, he would pardon Trump on any federal charges. In August, he said Trump clearly lost the 2020 election. He also…