After a year of getting roundly humiliated by Donald Trump and failing to unseat him as the leader of the Republican Party, Ron DeSantis finally dropped out of the race and endorsed Trump’s bid to reclaim the White House. But while the former president publicly retired his “DeSanctimonious” nickname, Trump has privately made clear over the past two weeks that he’s not ready to let go of his grudge against the Florida governor and former ally.
According to two sources with knowledge of the matter and another person briefed on it, the former president and 2024 GOP frontrunner has continued to ridicule DeSantis in conversations with close associates, saying that the governor doesn’t have what it takes to be the party’s “future.” Lately, Trump has told fellow Republicans that DeSantis should not be the Republican presidential nominee in 2028, in part because the governor has proven himself — in Trump’s view — as someone who Democrats could easily beat.
One of the sources, who has spoken to the ex-president about this topic recently, bluntly characterizes Trump’s attitude on DeSantis’ future as wanting to turn “Ron into a political eunuch” who never gets to be president, much less lead his party. In months past, as Rolling Stone previously reported, Trump privately insisted that if DeSantis truly wishes to earn his forgiveness, the Florida governor would have to “kiss my ass, a lot.”
For now, it appears that the adequate ass kissing has yet to begin.
The ongoing climate of spite and mutual bitterness between the two men underscores the former (and maybe future) president’s emphasis on receiving maximum fealty from his allies and fellow conservative luminaries. It also highlights Trump’s propensity for degrading and punishing Republicans who have crossed him, as well as his commitment to vengeance and the cult of personality that he plans to return to the White House, if he defeats President Joe Biden in the November election.
Following the suspension of DeSantis’ 2024 campaign late last month, the former president has mentioned to people close to him that he doesn’t want to hear from DeSantis unless the governor comes to him with a “really big” or “really great” apology, according to an individual with direct knowledge of Trump’s musings.
It is unclear if the governor and the ex-president have spoken since the endorsement in late January, or how much DeSantis will campaign for Trump once he officially secures the nomination, as is widely expected. Multiple sources close to Trump say they aren’t aware of any warm contact or rapprochement between the two in the weeks since DeSantis dropped out. When Trump was asked by Fox News whether he had spoken with DeSantis after he ended his campaign, the former president said that “somebody wanted to have a call but I wasn’t able to.”
A DeSantis spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on this story on Wednesday. Asked about the details of this reporting, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung provided the following statement to Rolling Stone: “We are focused on officially winning the primary and then beating Crooked Joe Biden, because America can’t afford another four years of his failed leadership.”
Even as he exited the race and endorsed Trump, DeSantis couldn’t resist getting in a jab against his former rival. In a speech announcing the suspension of his presidential campaign, the Florida governor called Trump a “superior” option to Biden, but he pointedly noted disagreements with the former president, like “his elevation of Anthony Fauci,” the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who became a hated figure among anti-vaxxers and Covid-19 deniers during Trump’s presidency.
At least in public, Trump appeared to shrug off the DeSantis jabs when asked about them on Fox News. “Look, it’s very hard for him. He’s going out, and it’s not like you feel wonderful when you do it,” Trump said in the video, which was posted to his Truth Social account.
A day after leaving the race, the Florida governor went out of his way to threaten to veto a measure from MAGA state legislators that would have used state taxpayer dollars to pay for Trump’s legal bills — using his X account to publicly dunk on the proposal. Now liberated from the campaign trail, DeSantis has appeared on conservative media to offer further veiled barbs at Trump over the pandemic, including claiming that he has an “enthusiasm problem” among Republican voters.
That last statement in particular baffled some of Trump’s senior aides, who say they could not understand what DeSantis thought he had to gain by continuing to snipe at Trump.
Trump, for his part, was annoyed when DeSantis started making these types of post-endorsement comments, telling advisers that the governor was a sore loser. The former president had previously called DeSantis “gracious” after the endorsement, in a mild attempt at publicly declaring a cease-fire.
It was not, however, destined to last — if only because there has been too much hostility generated between Team Trump and DeSantisland.
Since the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections — when many in the Republican elite saw DeSantis as ascendant and Trump at his politically weakest — Trump and his senior staff have embarked on a rabidly antagonistic, mudslinging blitz against the governor and his allies. The intra-party fight was notably hateful, even by the standards of Trumpland. This included the Trump campaign going after DeSantis’ penis size, publicly suggesting that he has embarrassing bowel-related problems, and routinely accusing him of wearing high heels.
The former president openly mused whether his top GOP opponent could be secretly gay, or even a pedophile. And Cheung, the Trump spokesman who has led much of the team’s messaging charge on DeSantis, similarly loaded his various statements on the governor with attempts at emasculation, including trashing him as a “eunuch” whose career Trump would crush. (Evidently, “eunuch” is a popular term in Trump’s inner sanctum, especially when referring to DeSantis.)
For the past year, the Trump campaign’s crusade to sink DeSantis’ political future wasn’t fueled only by the ex-president’s desire to punish a turncoat. Some of the highest ranks of Team Trump were staffed by Republicans who had previously worked for the Florida governor, and had such bad experiences with him that it caused some to crave revenge.
“The nature of the conversations among the people who used to work for Ron is just so frequently: ‘OK, how can we destroy this guy?’ It is not at all at a level that is normal for people who hold the usual grudges against horrible bosses. It’s a pure hatred that is much, much purer than that,” one source who had been on Team DeSantis and is now on the Trump side told Rolling Stone back in April. “People who were traveling with Ron every day, who worked with him very closely over the years, to this day joke about how it was always an open question whether or not Ron knew their names … And that’s just the start of it.”
The hard feelings toward DeSantis extend far outside the Trump campaign and into his activist base.
“DeSantis’ fake endorsement was just a disingenuous way to further attack President Trump on his Covid record,” says former Florida congressional candidate Laura Loomer. Loomer, a self-described “proud Islamophobe” and prominent MAGA social media personality, had been in contention for a role in Trump’s 2024 campaign until internal backlash to his plan killed the idea. Still, she has remained a heavy Trump booster during this election cycle — and a near-constant attack dog against DeSantis. “He essentially threatened Trump with his line-item veto, and his social media influencer team is still active,” Loomer continues.
DeSantis, she believes, is still trying to run a “shadow campaign,” undermining attempts to unify the Republican base ahead of the general election.
“Is there really unity with someone who is attacking you on social media, using their position as governor of Florida to try to threaten you? It’s hard for people to believe Ron DeSantis is serious when he says he’s dropping out and supporting Trump,” says Loomer.
More from Rolling Stone
Best of Rolling Stone