- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a 2024 presidential contender, is pushing back against former President Donald Trump‘s attempts to label him an “establishment Republican,” saying the “facts” tell a far different story.

“How many establishment Republicans would have sent illegal aliens to Martha’s Vineyard?” Mr. DeSantis said in a recent interview with Newsmax. “How many establishment Republicans would have stood up against Disney?”

Mr. DeSantis launched his 2024 campaign for the GOP presidential nomination last week, setting up a long-awaited clash with Mr. Trump, his former ally.

Mr. Trump and his team have spent months trying to cut down Mr. DeSantis and tarnish his image in the eyes of primary voters.

They have picked at his record and mocked his stiff style. They also have tried to tie him to former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has become one of Mr. Trump‘s favorite targets.

Mr. Ryan has warned the Republican Party will lose if Mr. Trump is the 2024 presidential nominee.

SEE ALSO: DeSantis will consider pardoning Jan. 6 rioters and Trump

The Trump team blasted out a series of emails highlighting how Mr. DeSantis signaled support for Mr. Ryan’s push to overhaul Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries to put the programs on more sound fiscal footing.

“He is a disciple of Paul Ryan, and did whatever Ryan told him to do,” Mr. Trump said in an email blast last week.

Mr. DeSantis, who was first elected governor in 2018, said it is a bogus attack.

“I have not spoken to Paul Ryan since I have been governor,” Mr. DeSantis said in the TV interview.

He also said it is the same story with Mr. Trump‘s attempts to connect him to former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove.

“I have met Karl Rove once in my life. They are not involved in my political operation,” Mr. DeSantis said. “So that is just manufactured garbage that people put out there online.”

SEE ALSO: DeSantis launches blitz in Iowa, N.H., S.C. as primary fight gets underway

Mr. DeSantis said he hopes people would look at the facts.

Fox News, meanwhile, reported Mr. DeSantis has gained the support of a group called The Eight Year Alliance which is comprised of more than 150 former Trump administration officials.

“On the Republican side, we face a two-candidate race: Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis,” the group’s website says. “Our conservative convictions, experience in federal service, and love of country lead us today to one, sure conclusion — Ron DeSantis is the man for this moment.”

The group includes Ken Cuccinelli, former Department of Homeland Security acting deputy secretary; Henry Walker, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Office of Legal Counsel Henry Whitaker; and William Levi, former chief of staff to the attorney general.

“If you’re one of the many conservative, hardworking appointees that served in the last Republican Administration, and if you believe — like we do — that Governor Ron DeSantis is the future, then we encourage you to join us!” the group’s website says.

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

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