In a radio interview Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida chastised former President Donald J. Trump for planning to skip a meeting of presidential candidates in Iowa this weekend, as well as for not committing to a GOP debate next year. month.
“No one is entitled to this nomination,” DeSantis told conservative radio host Howie Carr. “You have to earn the nomination.”
He added: “I will be in every debate because the American people deserve to hear from us directly about our vision for the country and how we are going to beat Joe Biden.”
DeSantis’s comments were a sign that he continues to escalate his criticism of Trump, his main rival for the Republican nomination, who has held a sizeable lead over the governor in national polls. As the race shifts into higher gear, candidates seeking to unseat Trump as favorites will hope to have as many opportunities as possible to draw contrasts with him, especially in debates and forums.
So far, Trump has not committed to participate in an August 23 debate in Milwaukee for the Republican candidates. His advisers have said he is unlikely to do so, both because of his lead in the polls and his hostile relationship with Fox News, which hosts the debate.
And Mr. Trump also chose not to attend the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines this weekend, which will feature appearances by Mr. DeSantis, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina , former Vice President Mike Pence and other 2024 hopefuls. The event is hosted by influential leaders among the state’s evangelical Christians, who are a key voting bloc in the Republican caucuses.
Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesman, dismissed DeSantis’ criticism, accusing him of “throwing a tantrum because he’s losing so much.”
“DeSantis should focus on his own agitation campaign,” Cheung said in a statement. He added that Trump “has a commanding advantage because voters know that he is the only person who can beat Joe Biden and win back the White House.”
Winning the Iowa caucuses on January 15 is a crucial part of Mr. DeSantis’ strategy. He has moved to the right of Trump on social issues like gay rights and abortion, in a possible attempt to connect with evangelical voters there.
In recent days, Mr. DeSantis’s campaign has tried to highlight Mr. Trump’s absence from Iowa, as well as the former president’s attacks on social media against Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is popular with conservatives in the state.
In his radio interview on Wednesday, DeSantis also criticized Trump for “failing to deliver” on his 2016 campaign promises to “drain the swamp” and build a wall on the southern border. And he said that two of Trump’s 2024 policy proposals: build new futuristic cities on federal land and allow parents choose directly public school principals—“not good ideas.”
“All candidates need to be put to the test,” DeSantis said, “and I think you need to step up and do it.”