Former President Donald Trump on Friday lauded Florida as a “great state” and a “great place” hours after his campaign blasted the Sunshine State as one of the “worst” in the union.
“I’m thrilled to be here with the proud, hard-working patriots of the great state of Florida. It’s a great state. Great place,” Trump told an audience during remarks at the Lee County Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Ft. Myers.
Trump, 76, went on to declare that the once perennial battleground state is now solidly red because of him.
“The great state of Florida has been among the most hotly contested swing states in the nation. But today Florida is no longer a swing state because we turned it into a red state,” the former president said.
Just hours before Trump’s speech, the 45th president’s 2024 campaign spokesman Steven Cheung fired off a lengthy and blistering statement decrying the Sunshine State as becoming “among the worst states” under Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“The real DeSantis record is one of misery and despair,” said Cheung. “He has left a wake of destruction all across Florida and people are hurting because he has spent more time playing public relations games instead of actually doing the hard-work needed to improve the lives of the people he represents.”
The statement goes on to blame DeSantis for a litany of issues, including a high cost-of-living in some parts of the state, rising home prices, expensive healthcare costs and car insurance premiums and gas prices – costs that have gone up across the country because of record inflation.
The Trump campaign also claimed that under DeSantis, Florida has become one of the worst states to live, find economic opportunity, work, retire, raise a family, pay taxes, be safe, rent a home, afford energy and die.
Trump, a Florida resident himself, steered clear of lambasting his adopted home state Friday, and didn’t mention DeSantis by name.
The Florida governor is likely to be his top competitor for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination if he chooses to run, which he is expected to do after Florida’s legislative session ends in May.
“In Florida, I got 1.2 million more votes than your successful governor’s campaign,” Trump boasted in his speech Friday, comparing his 2020 presidential election vote total in Florida to DeSantis’ vote total in his 2022 re-election contest.
According to the Associated Press, Trump received 5,668,731 votes in 2020 to DeSantis’ 4,613,783 in 2022. However, voter turnout was far greater in the 2020 presidential race, 77%, compared to the 54% of Floridians who went to the polls in the 2022 midterm election.
Trump also touted his endorsements from Florida lawmakers on Friday, name-checking the 12 members of Florida’s congressional delegation that have thrown their support behind his 2024 campaign – calling their backing “amazing.”
DeSantis has not received endorsements from any of the 20 Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation.
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