Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday pushed back against Gov. Chris Christie's strategy of launching attacks at former President Donald Trump — and discussed plans to ratchet up his mainstream media exposure in the crowded 2024 GOP field.
DeSantis, in an interview on Fox News's "MediaBuzz," was asked to respond to Christie's claims that he is the only Republican presidential candidate to go toe-to-toe with Trump, 77, because the others are to afraid of offending the front-runner or his supporters.
"I don't do insults so that is true," DeSantis said. "I think just getting in this insult game turns voters off. That's something I won't do."
DeSantis underscored that he and his campaign have been "very frank at our differences with respect to the former president."
On the campaign trail, the Sunshine State governor has honed in on what he views as Trump's failures to deliver conservative policy victories, such as the border wall. He's also portrayed himself as a better manager.
Trump has directed a torrent of inflammatory insults his way, but DeSantis has refrained from responding in kind.
Some of his surrogates and allies have spared with Trump's team on social media, in what occasionally devolves into vicious discourse. But DeSantis personally has stayed out of it.
"I have no interest in attacking Donald Trump or any of these other candidates personally. I think we got to rise above that and focus on the issues," DeSantis said Sunday.
Trump began firing his broadsides against DeSantis last year just before the midterm elections.
DeSantis also strenuously avoided getting ensnared in a tit-for-tat with the known brass-knuckle rhetorical brawler in the run-up to his campaign launch.
Asked if he had waited too long to respond to Trump, DeSantis said: "Not at all."
"I think even some of these polls, if you're going to take them for what they're worth, they say I have the highest favorability amongst Republican voters. And so I think they made a big mistake by spending all that money against me," he said.
The governor also teased plans to dabble in more mainstream media interviews. The Post reported Sunday that he will do an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper next week.
"I don't know necessarily about some of the some of the shows, but we want to be engaged. At the end of the day, I think that some of the best moments, as a governor and as a candidate, are when we're in hostile environments," he said. "We're going to do more of it."
DeSantis has largely conducted interviews with conservative-friendly outlets and local media in early states, drawing criticism from some such as conservative host Megyn Kelly.
He underscored that he has fielded questions from mainstream media outlets all along.
"It is a misnomer to think we haven't had these people covering us. They're free to ask questions. I call on CNN specifically when we're around town halls and whatnot. And we will continue to do that," he said.
His campaign has emphasized that it always planned to do interviews with a broader purview of media outlets as the campaign went on, but wanted to focus on fundraising efforts during its initial phase.
Earlier this month, the campaign touted a whopping $20 million haul in the first six weeks after DeSantis jumped in the race May 24.
DeSantis contended that the more exposure he receives, the more voters are receptive to him.
"What we found is the more I'm out there, the more support we get in these early states," he said.
Recently, DeSantis's campaign shed roughly a dozen staffers in an endeavor a spokesperson described as being intended to make his operation more nimble.
He is currently polling at 20.6%, about 23.4 percentage points behind Trump in the latest RealClearPolitics aggregate of polls.