Trump, DeSantis trade barbs as 2024 campaign acrimony grows

  • World
  • Friday, 02 Jun 2023

FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speak at midterm election rallies, in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. November 7, 2022 and Tampa, Florida, U.S., November 8, 2022 in a combination of file photos. REUTERS/Gaelen Morse, Marco Bello/File Photo

(Reuters) - Former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis traded barbs on Thursday over who could most quickly fix the economy and reform government agencies as the battle between the top two Republican contenders grew increasingly acrimonious.

Trump, who currently holds a large lead over DeSantis in a distant second in polls on the 2024 Republican nomination, also took critical shots at other candidates lower down in the rankings, suggesting they exit the party's primary.

Trump's comments were made to Fox News host Sean Hannity in a town hall in Clive, Iowa. Hannity is one of Trump's strongest media allies, and he set him up to blast opponents including DeSantis, who he predicted would slip further in the polls.

"You know, I really go after the one who is second and I think the one who is second has gone down so much and so rapidly that I don't think he's going to be second that much longer. I think he's going to be third or fourth," Trump said.

Earlier on Thursday, DeSantis and Trump had exchanged insults over their plans to right the economy and reform government bureaucracy, with the Florida governor criticizing Trump for not getting the job done during his time in the White House.

"Why didn't he do it in his first four years?" DeSantis quipped to reporters during a campaign event in New Hampshire.

DeSantis argued that it was better for voters to elect someone who could serve two terms - or eight years in office - because that is how long it would take to successfully finish a task that was not fully defined by either candidate.

"If he needs eight years don't vote for him. I'll have that this country hopping in six months," Trump, who can only serve one more term, sniped back.

During the Fox News town hall, Trump was asked about what he made of the growing Republican field, including former vice president Mike Pence and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie who are both expected to enter the race next week.

"I don't know why people are doing it. They're at 1%. Some are at zero," he said, referring to candidates with low poll numbers.

Remarking on former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, Trump said: "nobody knows who the hell he is."

(reporting by Nathan Layne, Timothy Reid and Eric Beech; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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