Donald Trump has described Ron DeSantis as an “average” politician, in a statement aimed at belittling the man who could rival him for the Republican presidential nomination.
Mr DeSantis, 44, was re-elected as Florida governor with almost 60% of the vote, marking him out as a rising star and a possible contender for the presidency in 2024.
But former president Mr Trump described him as “Ron DeSanctimonious”, a politician who had been “in desperate shape” when running for his first term in 2017.
Mr Trump said: “He was politically dead, losing in a landslide to a very good agriculture commissioner, Adam Putnam, who was loaded up with cash and great poll numbers.
“Ron had low approval, bad polls, and no money, but he said that if I would endorse him, he could win.
“When I endorsed him, it was as though, to use a bad term, a nuclear weapon went off.”
“I also fixed his campaign, which had completely fallen apart,” Mr Trump added, before praising himself for preventing Mr DeSantis’s election from “being stolen”.
Mr Trump still maintains, despite no real evidence, that the 2020 election he lost to Joe Biden was rigged.
Voters in the midterms by and large rejected candidates who backed Mr Trump’s claims.
The election results are still too early to call in many areas, but although they may yet win both houses of Congress, the Republicans did not win as easily as many had predicted.
Some of Mr Trump’s fellow Republican politicians have blamed him for this, leaving him in a vulnerable position after six years of dominating the party largely unchallenged.
Writing on social media, he refuted any claim that he is angry about the results, saying he is “very busy looking into the future”, and adding: “Remember I am a ‘Stable Genius’.”
Mr Trump, 76, has hinted that he will run again for the presidency and has already teased a big announcement on 15 November, when he is expected to make his run official.
He said that Mr DeSantis is “playing games” by refusing to rule out a presidential bid in 2024, adding: “The Fake News asks him if he’s going to run if president Trump runs, and he says: ‘I’m only focused on the governor’s race, I’m not looking into the future’.
“Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer.”
He described the run-up to his 2016 win as a situation where a number of rivals “disappeared from sight… after I easily knocked them out, one by one”.
“We’re in exactly the same position now.
“They will keep coming after us, MAGA, but ultimately, we will win.
“Put America first and make America great again!”
Mr DeSantis has not commented on Mr Trump’s remarks.