DeSantis critical of GOP rivals Haley and Trump, praises Tom Brady

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis reacts after his son, Mason, declared that Tom Brady was the best quarterback ever at the Grappone Center on Friday for a Never Back Down event in Concord.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis reacts after his son, Mason, declared that Tom Brady was the best quarterback ever at the Grappone Center on Friday for a Never Back Down event in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to the crowd at the Grappone Center on Friday during a “Never Back Down” event in Concord.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to the crowd at the Grappone Center on Friday during a “Never Back Down” event in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff

Published: 12-15-2023 4:34 PM

Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis says Gov. Chris Sununu’s endorsement of rival Nikki Haley doesn’t change the race or his strategy in New Hampshire.

“Chris is great, a great campaigner and all that,” DeSantis said Friday in Concord. “But ultimately, Nikki Haley is an establishment candidate that does not do well in these Republican primaries. That is starting to become more and more apparent to voters as she’s gotten more attention.”

Earlier this week, New Hampshire’s popular governor who’s serving his fourth two-year term steering the Granite State introduced Haley as the “next president of the United States,” at a campaign event in Manchester.

DeSantis arrived in the state days later for his own set of stops in the First-In-The-Nation primary state.

“I think Nikki represents managed decline,” DeSantis said to reporters at the Grappone Conference Center.

Republican voters “want a leader,” with bold ideas and energy, he said.

“They want somebody who’s going to be strong,” DeSantis said. “If you look at my record as governor, I took on every single fight on behalf of the people and I won those fights. She was governor for six years. She was basically a potted plant.”

While Haley was in the spotlight earlier this week, former President Donald Trump will be in Durham on Saturday and remains the clear front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination.

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Trump has stayed away from every national debate, which has spurred criticism from the other candidates in the race, but it hasn’t hurt him much in the polls.

“When is the last time he stood on a stage and just took questions from voters?” DeSantis said Friday. “Has he done that at any point in this campaign? He certainly hasn’t done it on a debate stage. How often has he been willing to go and really answer the tough questions.”

Voters want to hear from candidates directly, DeSantis said.

“People want to see you earn it,” he said.

The Florida governor said he wouldn’t be surprised if Trump rejected the results of the New Hampshire primary if he doesn’t win.

“If Trump loses, he will say it’s stolen no matter what. Absolutely. He will try to de-legitimize the results. He did that against Ted Cruz in 2016,” DeSantis said. “I don’t think people are going to buy it.”

At the start of his event in Concord, DeSantis appeared with his son and tried to appeal to the hearts of New Hampshire voters, but not by touching on the economy or wars around the globe.

He touched on something much less controversial by declaring Tom Brady the best NFL quarterback ever.

Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.