DeSantis raises concerns about Trump VP choice in call to Republican backers

Ron DeSantis has told donors to his failed presidential bid that Donald Trump should not play “identity politics” when picking his 2024 running mate.

In an audio recording, obtained by NBC News, the Florida governor said: “Now we have a diverse Republican Party. I want everybody in the fold, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t want people representing 10, 15 per cent of the party being in the driver’s seat.”

Those on the call included supporters who had committed to serve as delegates for Mr DeSantis at July’s Republican National Convention.

“So I would want somebody that, if something happened, the people that voted us in would have been pleased to know that they’re going to continue the mission,” Mr DeSantis added.

“I’m not sure that those are going to necessarily be the criteria that Donald Trump uses. … I have heard that they’re looking more in identity politics. I think that’s a mistake. I think you should just focus on who the best person for the job would be, and then do that accordingly.”

NBC News reported that there were around 200 people on the video call with the governor, citing a source who attended.

Mr DeSantis was “candid — and, at times, critical” in sharing his concerns about the former president, coming after he threw his endorsement behind Mr Trump when he suspended his own campaign for the White House in January.

Mr Trump spokesperson Karoline Leavitt hit out at Mr DeSantis over his comments on the call.

“Ron DeSantis failed miserably in his presidential campaign and does not have a voice in selecting the next vice president of the United States,” she said.

“Rather than throw cheap shots from afar, Ron should focus on what he can do to fire [President] Joe Biden and Make America Great Again.”

A Mr DeSantis spokesperson declined a chance to comment when approached by NBC News.

Donald Trump giving an at-times incoherent speech (EPA)
Donald Trump giving an at-times incoherent speech (EPA)

There has been much speculation about who Mr Trump may pick as his running mate.

This week, the former president hinted at his shortlist during a Fox News town hall hosted by Laura Ingraham.

She presented a list of rumoured contenders featuring such popular Republican figures as former presidential candidates Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott, Florida congressman Byron Donalds and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem as well as, much more improbably, Mr DeSantis.

Another intriguing name mentioned was that of Tulsi Gabbard, the former Hawaii representative who was a Democratic presidential candidate as recently as four years ago.

Ms Gabbard appeared on Fox News earlier this week to join in Mr Trump’s attack on any Nato member states who do not pay their dues to the military alliance while still expecting protection from the United States.

Not mentioned, significantly, was Elise Stefanik, the New York congresswoman who has been lobbying hard for the job in recent weeks, nor Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who served loyally as Mr Trump’s White House press secretary and has also been linked to the post.

“Honestly, all of those people are good,” Mr Trump told Ms Ingraham of the names she reeled off, declining to commit to any one name.