At a campaign event in his own state, the Florida governor blamed the former president for his defeat in by Joe Biden 2020 and suggested Mr Trump lacked the energy to lead the country again.
“We don’t need any more presidents that have lost the zip on their fastball,” Mr DeSantis said.
He added that the party’s nomination contest shouldn’t be a coronation, especially for “anybody that couldn’t even stop Joe Biden.”
Mr DeSantis also used the event as an opportunity to undercut ongoing lies from the former president and his supporters that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
He said in 2020, people were “voting against Trump.”
“Let’s just be honest, he energised Democrats,” said Mr DeSantis. “You could have John Kennedy walk through the door right now and he wouldn’t energise Democrats as much as Donald Trump does.”
Meanwhile, Mr DeSantis responded to questions from supporters at the rally. Asked how he will defeat a candidate who “fills stadiums,” DeSantis quickly shot back: “Not anymore.”
“Here’s the thing: a voter that goes to 10 rallies, their vote counts the same as somebody that’s unenthusiastic and then goes and votes. And we just have to understand that,” he continued.
His latest remarks come as the Florida governor pursues a more aggressive strategy in an effort to land the Republican nomination.
Mr Trump is currently the GOP front-runner, with a 42-point lead over Mr DeSantis, despite facing four criminal indictments.
Mr DeSantis also took aim at the former president’s failed promise to build a wall at the southern border and make Mexico pay for it, telling the crowd he would finish the project. In addition, he questioned where money raised by Mr Trump’s camp — more than $45.5 million between 1 July and 30 September, compared to the DeSantis campaign’s $15 million.
“Why is he raising that money? And where’s that money going to?” Mr DeSantis said. “Isn’t it going to a lot of lawyers?”
This latest salvo comes after Mr DeSantis slammed the former president for being “missing in action” at the latest GOP debate, which Mr Trump did not attend.
The governor also said the Trump administration’s spending “set the stage for the inflation,” a claim that President Joe Biden backed up. “That’s right,” the president said in a post on social media.
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