Gov. DeSantis, Trump Clash Over COVID-19 and Age Ahead of 2nd GOP Debate

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In the latest developments on the 2024 campaign trail, the two remaining Floridians in the GOP primary engaged in a heated exchange over COVID-19 policies and the introduction of new boosters. Governor Ron DeSantis took a direct jab at the age of both the current and former president, while also announcing that Miami would host an upcoming Republican debate.

Celebrating his 45th birthday this week, Governor Ron DeSantis proudly highlighted his status as one of the youngest contenders in the current presidential race. During an interview with CBS News, DeSantis addressed the question of whether age should be a factor in voters’ decision-making process. In response, he criticized both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, pointing out that they would both be in their 80s if elected for another term.

“The presidency is not a job suitable for someone in their 80s,” DeSantis emphasized. “While there is nothing wrong with being 80 years old — as I am currently the governor of Florida and have the utmost respect for the elderly — it is crucial to have an energetic and fully engaged president who can give their all to the demands of the position.”

In response to DeSantis’ remarks, Trump’s campaign retaliated with a sardonic birthday message. Furthermore, they pointed out that Governor DeSantis had slipped to fourth place in recent GOP primary polls conducted in South Carolina. Reports also surfaced suggesting that the DeSantis campaign had lowered their expectations for the crucial state of Iowa, with an official expressing hope for a “strong second-place finish.”

Ken Cuccinelli, a representative from the DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down, addressed these claims earlier in the week, explaining that while victories in every battle may not be feasible in a field of such talented candidates, the ultimate goal remains to secure the overall victory. Cuccinelli added, “Regardless of the combination of places it takes, we will tirelessly fight to climb as high as possible on the ladder of success.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 policies became another point of contention between Trump and DeSantis. The governor’s campaign criticized Trump for his initial handling of the virus. However, DeSantis made headlines later in the week when his administration became the first in the nation to advise against administering new COVID-19 vaccine boosters to individuals under the age of 65, despite receiving approval from the FDA and CDC. Officials, including HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, maintained that the updated vaccines were safe and effective for individuals aged six months and older.

Secretary Becerra dismissed the concerns surrounding the vaccine, stating, “While the boogeyman may be out there, it is not the federal government or the vaccine itself. The fears being conjured by certain individuals are simply not based on factual evidence.”

Trump, on the other hand, defended his record on COVID-19 during an interview with former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly. When questioned about his efforts to accelerate the development of the original vaccines, which some of his supporters have criticized as dangerous, Trump responded cautiously. He clarified, “I did not impose any mandates or force anyone to take the vaccine. The experts estimated that my actions saved 100 million lives by expediting the vaccine’s development within nine months, compared to the average timeline of five to twelve years.”

Inquiring further, Kelly asked, “Are you proud of this achievement?”

Trump replied, “I am not expressing personal pride; rather, I am articulating the perspective of the Democratic party.”

In a separate announcement, the Republican National Committee (RNC) confirmed that a third GOP debate would take place in Miami this November, rather than in the traditionally conservative state of Alabama. It remains uncertain whether Trump will participate in the event, as the DeSantis campaign noted that their focus is currently on preparations for the second debate, scheduled for September 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

Carly Atchison, a spokesperson for Team DeSantis, expressed anticipation for the upcoming debate, stating, “On the debate stage, you will witness a DeSantis who will share his vision, exude presidential qualities, and demonstrate the track record to support his statements.”

In summary, the 2024 campaign trail witnessed intense exchanges between Governor Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, as they clashed over age considerations in the presidential role and diverging COVID-19 policies. Furthermore, the news of Miami hosting an upcoming GOP debate added another dimension to the evolving political landscape.

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