Trump, DeSantis Clash at Florida GOP Summit

On Saturday, the GOP Presidential candidates flocked to Orlando for the Florida Republican Party’s Freedom Summit.

Following the former President’s absence from the first two GOP debates, the event marked the first in-person showdown between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis on the 2024 campaign trail.

“Florida has shown the way forward for the Republican Party,” DeSantis said in his address, earning applause. “No state has done more to beat the left at the institutional level than we have in the state of Florida.”

Several other candidates attended the summit, including former Governors Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, but the two Florida Republicans received the warmest welcome. The event later turned icy, however, after Trump took the stage and attacked the Governor in his backyard.

“I endorsed him, and he became a rocket ship in 24 hours,” Trump taunted. “Now he’s like a wounded falling bird from the sky,”

“We’re going to win the Florida primary for the third straight time, and we’re going to win the state by a landslide next November,” Trump vowed.

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In a bid to upstage DeSantis at the summit, Trump was joined by a handful of his endorsements, including several state lawmakers and Florida U.S. Senator Rick Scott.

“You might have seen that I endorsed President Trump,” Scott told the crowd, “I don’t think there’s any question in my mind. He is the one person running that can really bring strength back to our country.”

Scott, DeSantis’s predecessor as Governor, offered his endorsement just days before the summit in a Newsweek op-ed. The two Florida governors are known to have a taut relationship.

“This happens in these things,” DeSantis told reporters following Trump’s address. “We’ve had flips the other way in other states. It’s a dynamic thing. Politicians do what they’re going to do.”

“But I would say, taking a step back and looking across the country, we’ve got more endorsements from state legislators than any other candidate by far. And I think the question is, is why would that be the case? And I think a lot of it is because they appreciate what we did in Florida.”

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DeSantis notably did not address Trump by name during his own speech but instead made promises to secure the southern border, lower gas prices, and increase American energy production.

Just days ahead of the summit, DeSantis threw a jab at Trump over his refusal to attend the GOP debates. He told Newsmax,

“[If] Donald Trump can summon the balls to show up to the debate, I’ll wear a boot on my head.”

Before his speech on Saturday, his wife Casey also took the stage to address the crowd.

“How nice would it be to have a president of the United States, to have their kids bring home homework to the White House instead of cocaine?” she joked, referencing the Secret Service’s discovery of the drug at the White House last July.

On Saturday, DeSantis also officially filed as a candidate in the 2024 Florida primary.

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