Trump slams DeSantis as Jeb light, embraces early voting in 2024: 'Have to play the game'

Trump also hails his rise in polls against Florida governor, crediting his use of short video addresses on key policies.

Published: February 20, 2023 10:13pm

Updated: February 20, 2023 11:49pm

Long a critic of expanding no-excuse absentee voting, former President Donald Trump says he is resigned to embracing early voting in 2024 to erase the advantage Democrats have built across the country.

"We're going to have to play the game," he told Just the News.

In a wide-ranging interview on the "Just the News, No Noise" television show on Monday evening, America's 45th president provided a sweeping overview of his 2024 election strategies, from the qualities he will be seeking in a vice presidential running mate to how he plans to portray a key rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, as an establishment Republican in the mold of Jeb Bush, Karl Rove and Paul Ryan.

Trump said he was pleased to see his polling numbers grow against DeSantis — whom he nicknamed "Ron DeSanctimonious" — as Trump has focused on substance with a series of videotaped policy discussions and the news media begins to focus on the Florida governor's past policy positions.

Polls show Trump has grown his lead against DeSantis by about five points in the last few weeks.

"If you look at the videos, my numbers have shot up in the last few weeks," he said. "And Ron DeSanctimonious and his numbers have really crashed. Because, you know, they're saying he was against Social Security. He was against Medicare. And little things like that.

"Karl Rove was one of the people he looks up to. Karl Rove has not been good for the Republican Party. And he's led a lot of failed campaigns. Paul Ryan is another one that he likes a lot. Paul Ryan, that's another beauty. And Jeb, of course." 

Trump said he still distrusts no-excuse absentee ballots and early voting but is ready to embrace it in 2024 to erase Democrats' advantage. He recently sent a fundraising email to followers vowing to raise money for lawful ballot harvesting activities.

His position "changed because it's so unfair, the whole process is," Trump said. "It's a rigged process. It's a disgusting process. And what was happening is they'd go in there with an accumulation of votes, which in many places isn't even legal, and they would accumulate votes at a level like nobody's ever seen before.

"... So we're going to have to play the game a little bit differently, because we're starting off with a deficit, and tremendous bad things are happening." 

Trump said if Republicans can score victories in the battleground states by adding early voting campaigns to their arsenal next election, they will have the authority to change the laws to what he has always supported. 

"I know that your next question will probably be like, 'What do you recommend?'" he said. "And what I recommend is all paper ballots, one-day voting, voter ID, and no mail-in except for far away military and people that are really seriously ill. And we'll have an honest system again."

Trump's evolution on early voting for 2024 is being cheered by many GOP activists, including North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley.

"You have to get out the vote," Whatley told "Just the News, Not Noise." "And you have to protect the ballot. ... The early voting programs are absolutely critical. The mail-in voting programs are going to be absolutely critical. And the RNC is investing a lot to ensure states get those programs up and running."

Trump also described the qualities he'll be looking for in a running mate should he win the GOP nomination next year.

"You've got to be smart," he said. "You've got to be respected. You've got to have a conservative voice."

His choice has "got to have common sense," Trump said, citing the policies he would expect a vice presidential nominee would need to support, like finishing a border wall and requiring photo voter ID. "We would have voter ID. How about even 88% of Democrats favor voter ID, but Democrat leadership doesn't want to do it. There's only one reason they don't want to do voter ID: because they cheat.

"We've got to become independent again on energy. ... We were energy independent. We were becoming energy dominant. We would have dominated the world on energy. We would have made a fortune on it. We would have paid off our debt. The money was going to be staggering. But this guy comes in and he ends it all. It's insane."

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