Senate Republicans say the increasingly nasty Trump-DeSantis sparring is how you get to the best possible 2024 candidate and they expect a no-holds-barred fight
Trump is planning to bombard likely 2024 challenger Ron DeSantis with damning opposition research.
Senate Republicans call the burgeoning assault fair game and expect things to get much spicier.
"Everyone who gets involved in these races knows that's part of what you must endure," one said.
Senate Republicans aren't surprised that Donald Trump is dead set on publicly destroying anticipated 2024 challenger Ron DeSantis by compiling politically damaging opposition research on the Florida governor.
In fact, some said that's exactly what the party needs to produce a winning presidential candidate the next time around.
"We want to know who's who when we get to the general election," freshman Sen. Tommy Tuberville said of the mudslinging-packed vetting process.
The Alabama Republican, who has already endorsed the embattled former president even as indictment talk ramps up, cheered on a presidential primary battle royale.
"Heck, I hope 10 or 15 people run," Tuberville told Insider at the US Capitol, urging other White House hopefuls to "put out what you need to, go raise money, and put your best foot forward."
Tuberville added that although DeSantis hasn't formally declared for the race, all the moves he's been making recently — from spearheading culture wars at home to wading into foreign affairs — are very telling.
"He's not doing all this work unless he's getting in," Tuberville estimated.
The twice-impeached former president seems to have reached the same foregone conclusion, with Politico reporting that Trump's campaign is rooting through DeSantis' work as a federal prosecutor and positions he took during his time in Congress in search of potential bombshells.
Trump's doing his part by workshopping insulting nicknames and railing against how "disloyal" it would be for his one-time endorsee to try to take him head-on.
Sen. Cynthia Lummis, who told Insider she had fond memories of serving in the House with then-congressman DeSantis and that the two of them helped launch the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said running one's opponent through the wringer is "absolutely fair game."
"Everyone who gets involved in these races knows that's part of what you must endure," the Wyoming Republican said while walking back to her Senate office. "And one's ability to either inoculate yourself against things that have happened in your past or to withstand the criticism or explain yourself is part of the vetting process."
While she stopped short of offering an official endorsement, Lummis congratulated DeSantis on his resounding reelection win and encouraged him to keep putting the Sunshine State first.
"I think that DeSantis is doing the right thing for now by concentrating on his legislative session and on Florida,' Lummis said. "When the legislative session is over, if he chooses to, he can turn his attention to a presidential campaign without having his own Florida constituents feeling abandoned by him."
Florida senator and 2016 GOP presidential contender Marco Rubio said fending off broadsides from all sides is part of the gig.
"If you're running for president, that scrutiny is gonna come from your opponents, from the other party, and from the media," Rubio told Insider, noting that the New York Times spent weeks trying to muckrake him during the 2016 presidential contest. "And they wound up talking about traffic tickets — that my wife had."
When asked how DeSantis might hit back at the scandal-plagued former president, Rubio said that's for 2024 contenders to figure out.
"I haven't given that any thought. I'm not in that campaign," he said as he stepped into one of the Senate's automated subway cars.
A follow-up question about his possibly entering the race compelled Rubio to say that he was not running for president.
"Not yet, right?" Insider threw out before the electronic doors closed.
"Not now," Rubio said, smiling as he sped away.
Senator and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney offered an alternate analysis of the Trump-DeSantis sniping.
"There's an old statement, 'What Peter says about Paul tells you more about Peter than it does about Paul," he told Insider in the Senate subway tunnels. "So attacking your opponent in ways that reflect back on you is something you do with great caution."
The Utah Republican, who drew MAGA's ire by voting to impeach Trump following the deadly January 6, 2021 attack on Congress, declined to comment on DeSantis' political ambitions.
He's not even sure DeSantis would heed his advice given the GOP's swing to the far-right under Trump.
"Frankly, the McCain-Romney-Reagan wing of the party is like three feathers now. So I don't expect us having much influence," Romney said, chuckling as he offered the sobering analysis.
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