Trump takes aim at DeSantis at Florida GOP summit
Former President Donald Trump attacked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Saturday at Florida’s annual Republican summit, calling him “a wounded falling bird from the skies.”
The two 2024 presidential hopefuls were joined by several other candidates at the Republican party’s Freedom Summit at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, near Orlando, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.
The candidates officially filed to appear in the state’s 2024 primary, then each addressed an enthusiastic crowd largely in red, white and blue attire, but it was Trump’s presence which seemed to overshadow the proceedings.
“My people said, ‘Sir, don’t hit him,'” Trump told the audience of DeSantis. “‘He’s a Republican.’ I said, ‘I don’t care if he’s a Republican.’ And we hit him hard and now he’s like a wounded falling bird from the skies.”
The day-long event was filled with Republican voters, enthusiasts, lawmakers and plenty of merchandise booths.
Here were some notable moments.
Christie receives a negative welcome
The former New Jersey governor was booed as soon as he took the stage, and the booing lasted for the entirety of his almost 15-minute remarks. Christie acknowledged the crude welcome, telling hundreds of summit guests “your anger against the truth is reprehensible.”
“You can go and boo about it as much as you like, but it doesn’t change the truth and the truth is coming,” Christie said.
Despite the negative response, Christie pushed on with his remarks, touching on the national debt.
“I assume that you’re yelling for $33 trillion in debt, Christie said. “It must be one of the things you’re for. You’re probably for it. Because you won’t be here to pay for it. But our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be here to pay for it,” said Christie, visibly frustrated with the audience as he raised his voice.
Later, Trump also made reference to the intense booing of Christie, saying “I heard they booed Christie off the stage today.”
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley absent
The former United Nations ambassador was the only Republican presidential candidate who was absent from the summit. Haley was originally slated to attend, but organizers later confirmed she would not.
No reason was given for her absence. CBS News reached out to Haley’s campaign for a statement, but they declined to comment.
This comes ahead of the third presidential debate on Nov. 8 in Miami. Haley has been on an upward trajectory of late, with many of the latest polls placing her in second place in early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. However, like all the Republican candidates, she continues to trail considerably behind Trump, who skipped the first two debates, and will also be absent from the third.
DeSantis receives warm welcome in his home state
As he signed the primary paperwork, DeSantis was accompanied by his wife, Casey DeSantis, and his 4-year-old son Mason. DeSantis handed his young child a pen so that he could symbolically sign as a witness to his father’s filing. He was loudly cheered as he was introduced by his wife on stage.
In his remarks, he touted his accomplishments as governor as proof to his supporters that a successful model in Florida could be replicated on a national scale, and as a model for the Republican party.
“In Florida, we fight for you,” DeSantis said. “In Florida, we win for us, and in Florida, we lead the state to a better future. That’s what we’ve pledged and that’s what we’ve delivered.”
Trump closes the night
Trump closed the night with a speech that ran well over an hour and drew the largest audience of any candidate. Some voters told CBS News they paid the summit’s $125 fee just to see the former president.
He played many of the hits, attacking President Biden with well-worn taunts of “Sleepy Joe” and “Crooked Joe.”
“Biden can’t even put two sentences together, but he is handling our nuclear negotiations,” Trump said.
Along with his criticism of DeSantis, he also made derogatory comments about Haley, who served as U.N. ambassador in his administration. Trump also continued his false claims about the results of 2020 election, for which he has been criminally charged in multiple cases. But he made no reference to the $250 million New York civil fraud trial against him and the Trump Organization. The judge overseeing the trial has issued a limited gag order against Trump.
Trump addressed the immigration crisis, promising his supporters “mass deportation” for undocumented immigrants.
He again touted his plans to build a wall on the southern border and criticized Biden’s response to the crisis, referencing a U.S.-bound migrant caravan that is currently in Mexico.
“He doesn’t know what to do with it,” Trump alleged of Biden.
He addressed inflation and what he called the need for the U.S. to be “energy independent,” arguing that the U.S. was putting too much emphasis on the electric vehicle industry, referencing his September trip to Detroit to address striking auto workers.
A popular merchandise booth outside the auditorium seemed to capture the mood of the event. The booth’s owner, Peter Crotty, said Trump merchandise was flying off the shelves, but DeSantis merchandise was placed in a discount section, with DeSantis baseball caps selling for just $5.
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I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.