Flying back from an Ohio election rally, Donald Trump warned rival Ron DeSantis that he would face the worst if he decided to take on the former president.
“He could seriously hurt himself,” he told a small group of reporters traveling with him on his refurbished 757, nicknamed “Trump Force One.”
In an extended interview, he said he could see a red wave building during the midterm elections that would bring Congress back to the GOP, but said he wanted Mitch McConnell replaced as Republican leader in the Senate.
He even explained what a hypothetical 2024 campaign would look like, with a mix of anger at the outcome of the 2020 election and a myriad of successes, from rebuilding the military to building a border wall.
An hour earlier, he dropped his biggest hint that he would be running again in front of a frenzied crowd at Dayton International Airport. He said he would make an important announcement next week at his headquarters in Mar-a-Lago.
Sitting in a cream-colored leather armchair, he later said his intentions were clear.
“I think everyone knows,” he said.
For months, assistants have been arguing about the best time to launch a campaign. Some wanted to leave early — in June or July — to meet the challenge of a rising DeSantis.
Donald Trump set his mind on a hypothetical run in 2024, saying he would easily beat Ron DeSantis for the nomination, speaking to reporters Monday night.
Trump addressed a crowd at Dayton International Airport, Ohio, on Monday night. When he flew back, he warned Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to think twice about running for the White House
Trump spoke to a small group of reporters Monday night aboard his refurbished 757. Leather seats with the Trump family crest on the headrest
A conventional mindset has waited until after the midterms to read the country’s mood.
But insiders said Trump himself preferred launching before the November election, seeing it as the best way to make a splash.
On Monday night, Trump admitted he’d been thinking about making an announcement in Ohio, but dropped the idea for fear it would overshadow other Republicans running for office.
“I didn’t want to interfere in the polls. I thought so,’ he said.
“I was thinking of doing it tonight. They all wanted it tonight. But they were very happy when I said the 15th.
“They all cheered. But I just don’t want to do anything to interfere with… I don’t want to get all that publicity…’
DeSantis emerged this summer as Trump’s main rival for the Republican nomination, as he played a pivotal role in the country’s cultural wars. He regularly tops Republican voter polls when asked who they want to run in 2024 — if Trump himself doesn’t participate.
Former President Donald Trump called on supporters to deliver a red wave during Tuesday’s midterm elections as he delivered an election eve in the critical state of Ohio
Trump and his wife Melania voted Tuesday at the Morton and Barbara Mandel Recreation Center, Palm Beach, Florida. He says he will make a big announcement next week
On Saturday, Trump tested his line of attack, calling the Florida governor “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
But Trump downplayed any idea of a fight — even as a giant screen in front of him in the cabin of his plane, tuned to NewsMax, analyzed the matchup.
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” he said over a round of Diet Coke. “I’m way up in the polls, which is what people don’t like to say.
“I don’t think I’d have any trouble beating him.”
At his meeting earlier, Trump was overjoyed at projecting polls onto a big screen showing the former president gaining 70 percent Republican support, more than about 10 percent for DeSantis.
“I don’t know if he’s running. I think if he runs, he can hurt himself badly, I do believe he can seriously hurt himself,” Trump said.
Supporters turned out in the thousands on Monday night despite the cold in Ohio
The contest, he said, could sow damaging divisions.
“I don’t think it would be good for the party,” he added.
He later returned to the theme when asked which Republicans could run.
“I don’t know if DeSantis is going to run,” he said, before hinting that he would be on the attack soon.
“But if he ran away, I could tell you things about him that aren’t very flattering. I know more about him than maybe his wife – who is really into his campaign.
Trump also targeted Congress after the interim terms, saying Republicans should immediately turn their attention to tackling crime and border security if they seize power.
Removing McConnell, he admitted, would wait, even as he cited Senator Rick Scott as a possible majority leader.
JD Vance spoke ahead of Trump’s arrival on Monday night. He demanded action to tackle inflation by increasing oil and gas production to lower energy prices
Marjorie Taylor Greene also appeared at the Ohio rally
“And I think he would probably go for it. He would have a lot of support. A lot of people are mad at Mitch,” Trump said.
“I think we should probably live with him for two years. If I enter and if I win I will say don’t send me legislation if he is the leader.
“And he’ll be gone in two minutes.”
But on Monday night, the most sustained applause from about 5,000 supporters at Dayton International Airport came not for a line over the midterms, but as he teased a potential third run for the White House.
“I’m going to make a very big announcement on Tuesday, November 15 in Mar-a-Lago,” he said.
There had been much speculation that he would use his election rally to announce a run, but he added that he did not want to “detract from the importance of tomorrow.”
It was another teaser for fans after he kept his supporters on the edge of their seats the day before.
“I’ll probably have to do it again, but stay tuned,” he said at a rally on Sunday night.
“Stay tuned until tomorrow night in the great state of Ohio.”
He outlined some of the themes of his campaign when he flew back Monday night and said he would continue to claim the 2020 elections were stolen from him – despite his claims being rejected by multiple courts.
“I think I’ll always talk about it. I actually think it gives our base energy. People who are on my side,” he said.
“Number one if I don’t talk about it, I lose a lot of votes.”
But he also said that was only part of the reason he would talk about it.
“It’s mostly true,” he said.