ROCHESTER, N.H. — Donald Trump set aside months of criticism and mockery of Ron DeSantis on Sunday night, celebrating his onetime Republican rival as his newest supporter after the Florida governor ended his presidential campaign and endorsed the former president.
For Trump, it’s become a familiar ritual to welcome the backing of someone who tried to take him on. Nonetheless, it was notable at Sunday’s rally in New Hampshire to see Trump praise DeSantis without calling him “DeSantimonious” or “DeSanctus,” putting an end to perhaps the most bitter rivalry of Republicans’ 2024 campaign.
“I just want to thank Ron and congratulate him on doing a very good job,” Trump said at the outset of his remarks. “He was very gracious, and he endorsed me. I appreciate that, and I also look forward to working with Ron.” Trump described DeSantis as “a really terrific person.”
DeSantis’ Announcement and Endorsement
Earlier in the day, DeSantis said via video that he would be ending his campaign two days before New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation GOP primary. But, Trump’s glee Sunday night aside, it wasn’t the warmest of endorsements.
“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” DeSantis said, offering matter-of-fact analysis through a forced smile, without adding plaudits for Trump.
“I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee, and I will honor that pledge,” he continued, before adding a dig at the remaining contender, Nikki Haley. DeSantis described the former U.N. ambassador and onetime South Carolina governor as a stand-in for “the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism.”
Trump’s Response and Rally Speech
Seemingly unbothered by DeSantis’ approach, Trump struck a tone of camaraderie as fellow political combatants. “I will tell you it’s not easy,” Trump said Sunday night in Rochester. “They think it’s easy doing this stuff, right? It’s not easy.”
Then Trump quickly moved on to his typical rally speech, mixing freewheeling attacks on President Joe Biden, the political media, “the deep state” and “warmongers” in Washington, and the criminal justice that has indicted him four times, with 91 felony charges pending in multiple trials.
He devoted more time to criticizing Haley than to praising DeSantis, casting her as a tool of the political establishment he has flouted. He made sweeping promises of peace and prosperity, pledging without offering any detailed plans that he would reverse inflation and end Russia’s war in Ukraine. And he repeated his lies that his defeat to Biden in 2020 was due to fraud.
Public Reaction and Other Endorsements
A boisterous crowd at the historic opera house in Rochester laughed, chanted and roared throughout.
“The great silent majority is rising like never before,” Trump answered.
DeSantis joins other failed GOP hopefuls, including South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, in endorsing the former president. Trump critics Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, and Asa Hutchinson, the former Arkansas governor, declined to endorse Trump after suspending their campaigns; Hutchinson endorsed Haley on Saturday.
Trump’s Legal Troubles and Future Campaigns
In the closing hours of the New Hampshire campaign, Trump will be juggling his legal troubles with the demands of seeking another term. On Monday, Trump will be in New York at a civil defamation trial stemming from a columnist’s claims he sexually attacked her. Then he is scheduled to return to New Hampshire for an evening rally in Laconia.
“I don’t have to be there,” he said of the court proceedings. “I could use your prayers. But look, it is what it is.”
His first criminal trial, stemming from charges that he is responsible for his supporters’ Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, is scheduled to begin the day before the Super Tuesday primary slate on March 5.
“It’s a disgrace,” Trump said.