Former President Trump on Thursday took swipes at a slew of possible 2024 GOP rivals, calling his former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley “overly ambitious” and accusing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin of being ungrateful.
Trump spoke for a half hour with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, addressing some of his potential challengers for the Republican presidential nomination and refusing to commit to endorsing the party’s eventual nominee.
The former president told Hewitt he believes Haley, DeSantis, Youngkin and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo should not run against him because of Trump’s previous relationships with them, though Trump acknowledged that would probably not stop them.
“Yeah, I would say that, but I know how life works. And I know how politics works,” Trump said. “And politics is a microcosm, but even more vicious, of life.”
“So you know, I’ve helped all those people. I took Mike out of nothing … I believe he always said he’d never run against the president,” Trump added. “And you know, time goes by and then they want to run, because they’re ambitious people. But you know, they’re polling very poorly.”
Pompeo has not said whether he is running for president in 2024, though he recently released a memoir and has been visiting early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
Trump was similarly critical of Haley, who is expected to announce on Feb. 15 that she is running for president. Trump said he spoke on the phone recently with Haley about her plans.
“She said, ‘I’ll never run against my president. He’s a great president. He’s been our greatest president. I’ll never run. I’ll never run,’ ” Trump told Hewitt. “But Nikki suffers from something that’s a very tough thing to suffer from. She’s overly ambitious.”
Trump chastised Youngkin, the Virginia governor, for not publicly giving him more credit for helping him get elected in 2021.
Trump said Youngkin reached out to Trump privately to offer his appreciation after Trump did a tele-rally in the closing days of the campaign, but the former president bemoaned that Youngkin was not appreciative enough in public.
Trump was similarly critical of DeSantis, the Florida governor who is seen as the former president’s chief rival in a possible 2024 primary match-up.
“Ron DeSantis got elected because of me. You remember he had nothing. He was dead. He was leaving the race. He came over and he begged me, begged me for an endorsement,” Trump said, even claiming that DeSantis was crying at the time.
The former president has in recent days ramped up his attacks on DeSantis, accusing the governor of rewriting history over how he responded to the coronavirus pandemic and calling him a “RINO globalist.”
Most polls have shown Trump and DeSantis comfortably ahead of the rest of the field in a hypothetical GOP primary. DeSantis has pulled ahead of Trump in some polls, including one released last week polling GOP primary voters in New Hampshire.
But Trump is currently the only declared candidate in the field, and his dedicated base of voters gives him a steady floor of support in a primary, particularly if several candidates splinter the rest of the electorate.
Trump has held few events since announcing his candidacy in November, appearing last weekend in New Hampshire and South Carolina for his first campaign speeches outside of Florida.
The former president told Hewitt that his children would not be part of his campaign this time around after his son-in-law Jared Kushner played a key role in 2016 and 2020.
“So the answer is Jared won’t be involved, and I don’t want them,” Trump said. “I want them to go out and have a nice life.”