New York Post

Move over, Don – Ron can take it from here


PRESIDENT Donald Trump recently issued his fourth official statement about me since our controvers­ial interview two months ago. (The one where he didn’t like me telling him I don’t believe he had the 2020 election stolen from him.)

“Piers opened STRONG with me,” Trump sneered about my new TV show, “Piers Morgan Uncensored,” “then ‘died.’ He now only draws flies.”

It made me chuckle because (a) I’m still alive, (b) the show’s going great (give it a try on Fox Nation), and (c) Trump’s fierce loyalty to friends is only matched by his comically obsessive trash-talking fury if you fall out with him.

But there was also an irony about his statement.

At the risk of further incurring his wrath, if anyone is drawing flies right now, it’s Donald Trump.

The once-omnipotent GOP beast bestriding the American political world like a paw-crunching King Kong is now seeing his strangleho­ld over the party ebb away faster than the infamous gorilla tumbled to his demise from the Empire State Building after being shot by US Navy jets.

And the same foe is proving to be the deadly weapon again now, in the form of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a US Navy war hero who advised SEAL team commanders in Iraq, and who still serves with the US Navy Reserve.

An ideal candidate

If you were scripting a perfect Republican presidenti­al candidate, the list of preferred requiremen­ts would read something like DeSantis’ résumé.

He’s a man from humble beginnings, raised in Dunedin, Fla., by working-class parents. (His father installed Nielsen TV ratings boxes, his mother was a nurse.)

“He was bright . . . very, very attentive,” Dee Centinaro, DeSantis’ first-grade teacher, told the Miami Herald. “I knew he would do his work, I knew he would pay attention, and I knew I could trust him.”

He graduated with honors from both Yale and Harvard Law School.

He was captain of Yale’s baseball team and had the best batting average (.336). “He’s a great captain,” teammate Kyle Cousin said of DeSantis at the time. “He helps everybody out. He is a true leader on and off the field.”

He was a Navy officer who served at Guantanamo Bay, and in Iraq as legal adviser to SEAL Team One during the deadliest year of the war in 2007, ensuring the missions were legally conducted and captured detainees were treated humanely.

DeSantis was awarded the Bronze Star for meritoriou­s ser

vice, and his boss, Navy Capt. Dane Thorleifso­n, who commanded the SEAL Special Operations Task-Force-West in Fallujah, said of him: “He was super smart, articulate, resourcefu­l and a positive part of the staff. I relied on him heavily.”

DeSantis then became a federal prosecutor, serving as a special assistant in the US Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida.

Ronald Henry, who was DeSantis’ direct supervisor, described him as an “aggressive prosecutor who didn’t go light.”

All of which adds up to a stunningly impressive set of ticks in the box for people who should run for president.

And that’s before we get to his highly successful tenure as governor of Florida, where, whatever you think of him, DeSantis has indisputab­ly proven himself to be a bold, fearless, combative and determined leader, earning him high approval ratings and the kind of national media attention that potential presidents get.

That’s why Republican billionair­es are lining up to back him, enabling DeSantis to build up a staggering $124 million for his 2022 gubernator­ial campaign war chest — twice what he needed to win in 2018 — and that’s why he’s now become Trump’s worst nightmare.

Friends no more

The two men have publicly supported each other for years, but I confidentl­y predict this mutual admiration society is about to hit the buffers big time.

For if there’s one thing Trump can’t stomach more than people who don’t buy into his “rigged election” bull, it’s people who might threaten his chances of returning to the White House in 2024.

And Ron DeSantis, 43, is that person.

He isn’t just 32 years younger than Trump, he’s more eloquent, focused and organized, going about his business with militaryst­yle planning.

He’s also more serious, which is a good thing, but as he showed with his “I welcome support from African-Americans” quip after Elon Musk said he was leaning toward supporting him, he can do charm and smart humor when he needs to.

DeSantis may be Trumpian when it comes to policy, agreeing with him on most issues, which will please the MAGA crowd, but he comes without all the Jan. 6 baggage (he hasn’t said the 2020 election was stolen) and wildly erratic and polarizing personalit­y.

As liberal Bill Maher put it: “You know what Ron DeSantis won’t be doing? He won’t be poop-tweeting every day. It won’t be, like, having feuds with Bette Midler on Twitter. He’s not an insane person.”

He’s not.

Ron DeSantis is showing himself to be a formidable and dynamic political operator, whether it’s taking on Disney over LGBT teaching in schools, keeping Florida largely open during the COVID pandemic — which was lambasted at the time, but the stats have increasing­ly vindicated his controvers­ial decision with Florida’s death rate lower than states like New York that opted for harsh lockdowns — or waging war on the absurd but dangerous woke cancel culture.

He’s also a devoted family man with three young children whose wife Casey showed her own fighting spirit by beating breast cancer.

So, by almost any political metric you choose, this guy’s a far better option for leading the Republican­s into the 2024 election than Donald Trump, and many party activists agree, which is why he’s come ahead of Trump as preferred candidate in recent polls of Republican voters in Colorado and Wisconsin.

He’s just younger, fresher and more exciting than the aging, raging gorilla who’s become a whiny, Democracy-defying bore.

‘A true FIGHTER’

And if DeSantis does win the nomination, I think he’ll destroy beleaguere­d Joe Biden — or any other Democrat, for that matter — to win the presidency.

But don’t take my word for his credential­s, take Trump’s.

In 2017, when he was president and DeSantis was running for governor, he tweeted: “Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”

He is, as Trump’s about to find out.

The game’s up for The Donald, who opened his political career STRONG but who’s now “died.”

It’s time Republican­s put their faith in The Ronald.

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 ?? ?? PASS THE MIC: Ex-President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have been chummy for years, with DeSantis stumping for the prez in 2019, but the alliance may soon hit the skids as the gov’s star rises.
PASS THE MIC: Ex-President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have been chummy for years, with DeSantis stumping for the prez in 2019, but the alliance may soon hit the skids as the gov’s star rises.

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