The Trump campaign railed against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “listless vessel” remark over the weekend, suggesting it is a repeat of Hillary Clinton’s controversial “deplorables” comment made in 2016.
In an interview with The Florida Standard, an online publication that describes itself as center-right, DeSantis made a comment in reference to Republicans supporting former President Trump, calling them “listless vessels.”
“The movement has got to be about what are you trying to achieve on behalf of the American people?” DeSantis told The Florida Standard. “And that’s got to be based in principle, if all we are is listless vessels that are just supposed to follow whatever happens to come down the pike on Truth Social every morning, that’s not going to be a durable movement.”
Trump’s campaign pushed back against DeSantis’s remark, comparing it to a comment made by Clinton in 2016 in which she divided Trump supporters into two categories, one of which she said fell into a “basket of deplorables.”
“DeSantis is now running the same, failed playbook as Hillary Clinton,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement shared with The Hill. “He called all Trump supporters ‘listless vessels’ just like Crooked did in 2016 when she called us ‘Deplorables.’ How did that work out? He should stop listening to his establishment handlers and start listening to the American people telling him to go back home.”
Jason Miller, a longtime adviser to Trump, echoed this argument, writing in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, “Looks like Ron DeSanctimonious just had his ‘Basket of Deplorables’ moment. Not good!”
“To Hillary Clinton, Trump supporters are ‘deplorables.’ To Ron DeSantis, they are ‘listless vessels.’ The truth is, Trump supporters are patriots,” Karoline Leavitt, spokeswoman for the Trump-aligned PAC Make America Great Again Inc., wrote in a statement.
While speaking with The Florida Standard, DeSantis pointed to the difference between his and Trump’s supporters and said, “So, there will be people who are huge Trump supporters, like in Congress, who have incredibly left-wing records that [are] just really atrocious,” without specifying exactly whom he meant.
“Then you have other people, you know, like a Congressman Chip Roy, who has endorsed me, Congressman Thomas Masie. These guys have records of principle fighting the swamp that are second to none. And yet, they will be attacked by some of these people and called RINOs,” DeSantis said.
“And ultimately a movement can’t be about the personality of one individual,” he continued.
DeSantis’s campaign attempted to clarify his comments Sunday, claiming the presidential candidate was referring to Trump and “some congressional endorsers.”
“Donald Trump and some congressional endorsers are ‘listless vessels.’ Why? Because Trump and D.C. insiders feel he is entitled to your vote,” DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin said in a statement shared with The Hill. “Ron DeSantis believes your trust should be earned and has the vision, plan and record to beat Joe Biden and reverse the decline of our country,” adding the media “refuses to report the facts” surrounding DeSantis’s comments.
The back-and-forth barbs between the GOP rivals follow a CBS News poll released Sunday that showed Trump clocking in a whopping 46 point lead over DeSantis, who is considered to be his main rival in the 2024 GOP race.
DeSantis’s campaign has shown signs of struggle in recent weeks, including the replacement of its campaign manager and a series of layoffs earlier this month. DeSantis is set to take the stage at the first GOP primary debate Wednesday night, which Trump has reportedly decided not to attend. The former president will instead sit for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, The New York Times reported last week.