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Trump backs off after hurling 'Ron DeSanctimonious' insult at Florida governor

Former President Trump speaks to CBS 4
Former President Trump speaks to CBS 4 02:55

MIAMI -- Less than 24 hours after giving Ron DeSantis the nickname "Ron DeSanctimonious" at a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, former President Donald Trump was unwilling to continue to take jabs at the Florida governor while waiting backstage at a rally in Miami for Sen. Marco Rubio.

  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and former US President Donald Trump. As Election Day approaches, the Trump-DeSantis 2024 rivalry seeps into the public.

In an interview with CBS News Miami, Trump was asked what he meant by the sobriquet Ron DeSanctimonious and if he considered the Florida governor ungrateful for the help Trump provided him four years ago.

"Well, let's see what happens," Trump said. "But in the meantime, we hope he gets elected. And you know, I've always had a very good relationship with him. But let's see what happens."

According to one Trump advisor, the former president has been using the "Ron DeSanctimonious" nickname in private for weeks before finally unveiling it at the rally in Pennsylvania.

"He's been test driving it," the advisor said. The advisor likened the decision to go public as "a little chin music" - a baseball term where a pitcher throws a fast ball at a batter's head to keep the hitter rattled and unsteady.

Trump has long used disparaging nicknames to mock and take down opponents.

In 2016, Marco Rubio became "Little Marco."

Ted Cruz was "Lyin' Ted."

Jeb Bush was "Low Energy Jeb."

And Hillary Clinton was "Crooked Hillary."

Whether the nickname "Ron DeSanctimonious," sticks - or is even effective - is yet to be seen, but there was almost immediate blowback from conservative media outlets, who see DeSantis as the future of the party.

The Daily Wire's Matt Walsh wrote: "DeSantis is an extremely effective conservative governor who has had real policy wins and real cultural wins. Trump isn't going to be able to take this one down with a dumb nickname. He better have more than that up his sleeve."

Will Chamberlain, the publisher of the Human Events, wrote: "Calling it now, DeSantis is going to run, and he's going to beat Trump badly."

Chamberlain added: "`That's Trump.' Yes - he's undisciplined and narcissistic, which leads him to do horribly counterproductive things This is why a lot of serious MAGA types (myself included) prefer DeSantis."

In the interview with CBS News Miami, it appeared Trump was chastened by the criticism. Asked to respond to the argument made by DeSantis supporters that with DeSantis they would get all of the Trump policies without any of the Trump baggage and controversies, the former President dismissed the question.

"Well, I don't think we have any baggage," Trump said. "You know, people were fighting us for four years. And if you don't fight back, you don't have any baggage. But I fight back like nobody's ever fought. And that's why we got the tax cuts. That's why we got our military rebuilt. We beat ISIS. We did all of the things that we've done. And you look at what's happening now, it's a disgrace what's happened to our country.

CBS4's Jim DeFede interviews Donald Trump 01:14

"So, you know, you could talk about a little controversy," Trump continued, "but remember this, if you don't fight back, you don't have controversy, but you don't win."

When the former President was reminded that Governor DeSantis bills himself as a fighter as well, he nodded, before he was asked how a Republican primary between himself and DeSantis would turn out.

"Well, I think I've done very well, and I hope he's going to be elected [on Tuesday]," Trump said, before ending the interview.

A few minutes later he took the stage in Miami and made only a passing reference to DeSantis, saying at the outset of his speech: "You're going to re-elect Ron DeSantis as your governor."  

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