Ron DeSantis’ popularity problem on Capitol Hill is getting worse.
The latest in a growing string of anecdotes about DeSantis’ lack of a personal touch during his six years in the House comes via former Rep. David Trott (R-Mich.). He sat next to DeSantis for two years when they both served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The then-Florida lawmaker “never said a single word to me,” Trott said in an email this week to POLITICO Playbook. “I was new to Congress, and he didn’t introduce himself or even say hello.”
“I think he’s an asshole,” Trott added in a phone interview. “I don’t think he cares about people.”
Former President Donald Trump announced his bid to reclaim the White House last November while DeSantis, widely viewed as the former president’s most formidable challenger for the Republican nomination, has spent months trying to burnish his national image with a book tour and visits to early primary states.
But even though DeSantis served three terms in Congress, it’s Trump who’s gotten the jump on the Florida governor as GOP lawmakers — including a parade of them from DeSantis’ state — have lined up behind Trump in recent days and weeks.
Trott elaborated on his interactions — or lack thereof — with DeSantis during their time in Congress together:
“I go to my first [House Foreign Affairs Committee] hearing early, and DeSantis showed up right at the gavel time and didn’t say hello or introduce himself,” he said. “And then the next hearing, the same thing happened. I think the third time it happened, I thought, ‘Oh, this guy’s not ever going to say hello to me.’”
A spokesperson for the governor declined to comment on Trott’s remarks.
Perhaps nowhere has the contrast between Trump and DeSantis been sharper than within Florida’s congressional delegation. While the Florida governor made a much-anticipated trip to Washington this week, Trump collected a wave of endorsements from Sunshine State lawmakers.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), who announced Monday night that he would back Trump for the GOP nomination, said he’s had a tough time connecting with his home-state governor.
“There has been multiple opportunities where I’ve talked to him and given him my cellphone number and asked him to reach out to me,” Steube said in a Friday interview on Fox News. “There’s been events in my district where I was told I could not be part of the press conference, told to go stand in the corner and not allowed to participate in that when he was in my district. You can’t win friends and influence people that way, especially in the political realm.”
In an interview with Playbook earlier this week, Steube recalled that Trump was the first person to call after the lawmaker suffered significant injuries that landed him in the ICU after in a tree-trimming accident earlier this year. “To this day, I have not heard from Gov. DeSantis,” Steube said.
Freshman Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), too, praised Trump’s personal touch in interfacing with the Florida delegation. In an interview with The New York Times, she recalled receiving a personal note from Trump after her father’s death in January, 2022. Another letter came not from Gov. Ron DeSantis, but from his wife, Casey DeSantis.
“Trump’s operation is personal,” Luna, another Trump endorsers, told the Times. “You take the time to actually get to know the people you’re going to be working with and that does make a difference.”
Trott, for his part, said DeSantis has an “ability to size up the electorate and figure out what issues and hot buttons he needs to press to advance his political ambitions.” But Trott also called the governor “just a very arrogant guy” who is “very focused on Ron DeSantis.”
“He wasn’t really liked when he was in Congress. And now it’s coming home to, you know, prove out as some of the Florida delegation endorsed Trump and some of the donors, you know, think he’s kind of awkward in terms of how he interacts with them,” Trott said. “If his pre-presidential campaign was playing out differently, then I’d say, ‘Well, maybe he just didn’t like me.’ But I think there’s something more at work here.”
Kierra Frazier contributed to this report.
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