Ron DeSantis has spent months on the receiving end of a barrage of broadsides from Donald TrumpMean monikerslegal challengespulpy innuendo about his personal life—all the reliable tactics Trump has used to vanquish previous Republican rivals. But now, with the former president mired in legal jeopardy, the Florida governor is mounting an offensive of his own, seeking, it seems, to capitalize on Trump’s vulnerability. 

Speaking to Piers Morgan—in an interview that ran in part in the New York Post and will air in full Thursday on Fox Nation, two Murdoch media platforms—DeSantis took shots at Trump’s chaotic leadership, his addiction to social media, and laughed off the nickname the former president appears to have settled on for him, despite apparently not knowing what “sanctimonious” means. “I kinda like it,” DeSantis said of “Ron DeSanctimonious,” the sobriquet in question. “You can call me whatever you want, just as long as you also call me a winner, because that’s what we’ve been able to do in Florida, is put a lot of points on the board and really take this state to the next level.”

Those “wins,” of course, have largely amounted to attacks on decency, truth, and the most marginalized people in his state. But they’ve raised his national profile and made him perhaps Trump’s closest rival for the GOP nomination. DeSantis hasn’t formally entered the race—which Trump comfortably leads, despite having cost his party in three straight elections. But during the Thursday interview, the governor seems to have outlined his pitch: I’m like Trump, but without all the posting. “It’s not important for me to be fighting with people on social media,” DeSantis told Morgan. “It’s not accomplishing anything for the people I represent.”

“The way we run the government, I think, is no daily drama,” he added. 

Meanwhile, the Trump Show may be about to reach its most dramatic point yet: The former president has been bracing for a potential indictment in New York in the Stormy Daniels hush-money case, and could soon be facing charges in a separate probe into his handling of classified documents. But the legal peril has only seemed to bring Trump and his party closer together, with Republicans so far rallying around him—and some, including Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, calling on DeSantis to take a stand on behalf of his fellow Floridian. 

DeSantis hasn’t indicated much interest in doing that, though he did toe the party line Monday in accusing Trump’s investigator—Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg—of pursuing a “political agenda” in potentially bringing charges against the former president. At the same time, the governor went out of his way to clearly mention the offense Bragg was investigating: “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star,” he said. 

Such barbs might play with some in the GOP, who like Trump’s hard-right policies but don’t like him personally. However, it’s hard to know how they’ll be taken by the Republican base, which remains loyal to Trump and may be inclined to agree with him that DeSantis is a lusterless weirdo—a perception the Florida governor didn’t exactly shatter in his sit-down with Morgan. 

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Still, the DeSantis offensive could lead some of Trump’s other challengers to adopt a more assertive approach of their own, as Politico suggested Wednesday. And that wouldn’t take much, given their current skittishness when it comes to anything approaching criticism of the former president. “I think the country wants a change,” DeSantis said. “I think they want a fresh start and a new direction, and so we’ll be very vocal about that.” 

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