- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday brushed aside former President Donald Trump‘s attempts to cast him as a “groomer” of young women, saying he is not interested in spending his time chopping down fellow Republicans.

The governor has been on the receiving end of recent Trump attacks, including the former president reposting a picture this week on social media accusing Mr. DeSantis of drinking alcohol with students when he was a teacher. The post labeled him a groomer. 

“I’d also just say this,” Mr. DeSantis said at a press conference Wednesday. “I spend my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against Joe Biden. That’s how I spend my time. I don’t spend my time trying to smear other Republicans.” 

Mr. Trump appears intent on tarnishing the glowing image Mr. DeSantis has cultivated in the eyes of Republican voters, with hopes of shooting down his presidential hopes before he gets off the runway. 

Mr. DeSantis is expected to launch his presidential bid after the Florida legislature adjourns in May. 

Polls show he’s shaping up to be Mr. Trump’s stiffest competition in the GOP primary race. 

The conservative Club for Growth released a national survey of 3,015 likely Republican voters showing Mr. Trump has a 37% to 33% lead over Mr. DeSantis in a crowded GOP field of contenders. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence registered at 7%, followed by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at 5%. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia barely registered in the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8%. 

Mr. DeSantis led Mr. Trump by nine points in a hypothetical head-to-head primary matchup.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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