Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday the presidency is “not a job for somebody that is pushing 80” as he sought to contrast his youth relative to former President Donald Trump, 77, and President Joe Biden, who turns 81 on Monday.
DeSantis, 45, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that “I just think that that’s something that has been shown with Joe Biden. Father Time is undefeated. Donald Trump is not exempt from any of that.”
The Florida governor argued that he is in the “prime of my life” while noting that Trump would be older than Biden was at the start of his term if he were to take office in 2025.
Age has quickly become a central theme of the 2024 presidential race. Trump has made mocking Biden and questioning his mental fitness for office a core part of his campaign speeches – even as he’s experienced his own gaffes and verbal slips on the trail.
The Florida governor’s campaign has leaned into this dynamic, launching an “accident tracker” for Trump gaffes last month that highlights apparent verbal slip-ups, such as when Trump appeared to confuse Biden with former President Barack Obama.
Beyond age, DeSantis said these “accidents” point to Trump not being “the same guy” he was when he first ran for president. Pressed by Tapper on Trump’s mental acuity and his ability to beat Biden in a general election, DeSantis said, “I wouldn’t be running unless I thought that the Democrats would beat Trump if he were the nominee.”
Democrats, DeSantis said, are “going very easy” on Trump as the Republican primary plays out but insisted that would change if Trump captures the GOP nomination.
“You’re gonna see scorched earth. You’re gonna see all this stuff brought out from from the past,” he said. “The whole election will end up being a referendum on Donald Trump, and Biden will be able to hang out in the basement, and I think he’ll be able to get away with it again.”
One Iowa voter agreed with DeSantis’ comments to Tapper, telling CNN that he watched DeSantis on “State of the Union” before heading to a campaign event in Plainfield, Iowa.
John Walker, who lives outside of Denver, Iowa, said DeSantis “mentioned that he will be a possible two-term president, and Trump will be immediately a lame duck when he comes in. And I like that because I haven’t heard a lot of candidates talk about that.”
Walker, who previously voted for Trump, added that he still likes the former president, but said, “I just think there’s a huge amount of uncertainty with Trump, and I don’t like that.”
With waning poll numbers, DeSantis has kept a vigorous pace on the campaign trail. Over the past two days, he has appeared at eight public events, and he continued his swing through Iowa on Sunday. In contrast with Biden and Trump, DeSantis often hits campaign events with his wife, Casey, and three young kids.
“I will serve two terms, deliver big results, and get the country moving again,” DeSantis said Sunday. “That’s what Republican voters want to see.”
This story has been updated with additional information.
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