WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Former President Donald Trump hit the campaign trail on Saturday for the first time since announcing his bid to reclaim the White House in 2024, visiting two early voting states and brushing aside criticism that his run was off to a slow start.
“I’m more angry now, and I’m more committed now, than I ever was,” Trump told a small crowd at the New Hampshire Republican Party’s annual meeting in Salem, before heading to Columbia, South Carolina, for an appearance alongside his leadership team in the state.
Numerous Republicans are considering whether to launch their own White House bids, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely seen as the biggest threat to Trump.
DeSantis ranks above Trump in some hypothetical Republican primary polls. According to a University of New Hampshire Survey Centers poll, New Hampshire voters prefer DeSantis over Trump by 12 points, 42% to 30%.
A new poll from Marquette University shows Republican voters and Republican-leaning independent voters prefer DeSantis as the eventual Republican presidential nominee over Trump by 28 percentage points, as 64% of this group of voters preferred DeSantis as the nominee, compared to 36% who said they preferred Trump to be the nominee.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said he is considering a White House bid for 2024, adding that he believes DeSantis would probably win the state right now in a Republican primary “without a doubt.”
DeSantis has not announced his candidacy, but his advisers are reportedly laying the groundwork for a 2024 run.
After his South Carolina speech, Trump told The Associated Press in an interview that it would be “a great act of disloyalty” if DeSantis opposed him in the primary and took credit for the governor’s initial election.
“If he runs, that’s fine. I’m way up in the polls,” Trump said. “He’s going to have to do what he wants to do, but he may run. I do think it would be a great act of disloyalty because, you know, I got him in. He had no chance. His political life was over.”
Trump also criticized DeSantis for closing businesses during the height of the pandemic, saying Florida was closed for a long time — bars, nightclubs and limiting people gathering on beaches — and said that DeSantis’ team is trying to rewrite that history.
Trump said he hasn’t spoken to DeSantis in a long time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.