Donald Trump road-tested a new nickname for his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination by claiming he would not use it, saying he would “never call” Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, “Meatball Ron”.
No less an authority than the New York Times has reported that Trump has been floating the nickname for the only Republican who challenges him in polling regarding the forming field for 2024.
Trump is one of two declared candidates so far. Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and UN ambassador, announced her campaign this week. DeSantis is expected to run.
In his surge to the White House in 2016, Trump made hay by coining nicknames for Republican opponents he relentlessly belittled at rallies and in debates.
In a late-night post to his Truth Social platform on Saturday, the former president used an extant nickname when he wrote: “I will never call Ron DeSanctimonious ‘Meatball’ Ron, as the Fake News is insisting I will.”
Trump linked DeSantis to two Republican establishment figures, “lightweight” Paul Ryan, the former House speaker and Trump critic, and “Low Energy” Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who Trump beat easily in 2016.
Trump also took a crack at DeSantis’s initial response to the Covid pandemic in 2020, a strict slate of measures the governor is now trying to place in the rearview mirror, as he courts a Republican base hostile to vaccine mandates and other public health rules.
“His loyalty skills are really weak,” Trump wrote. “It would be totally inappropriate to use the word ‘meatball’ as a moniker for Ron!”
Earlier this month, Maggie Haberman and Michael Bender of the Times, two of the best connected reporters on Trump, reported on the former president’s preparations for an expected DeSantis challenge.
According to Bender and Haberman, Trump recently “insulted Mr DeSantis in casual conversations, describing him as ‘Meatball Ron’, an apparent dig at his appearance, or ‘Shutdown Ron’, a reference to restrictions the governor put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic”.
They also said Trump advisers were “amassing data about Mr DeSantis’s actions in response to the pandemic, in part to try to depict him as a phony”.
Stephen Colbert, host of the Late Show on CBS, gleefully picked up on the story.
“Ooooh, I do not like how much I love that,” Colbert said in a monologue this week, calling the “Meatball Ron” nickname “so dumb and accurate”.
Trump, Colbert said, was “never gonna do better than the crystallized genius that is ‘Meatball Ron’”.
The host proceeded to sing “Meatball Ron” to the tune of Uptown Girl by Billy Joel, a song peppered with references to culture war policies including DeSantis’s “don’t say gay” law about teaching sexuality and gender in elementary schools and his focus on critical race theory, or CRT, as a way to fire up Republican voters.
“Meatball Ron/ He’s a walking talking beef baton / And he tells you that you can’t say gay / And that Covid will just go away / That’s not OK.
“Meatball Ron / Marinara is his big turn on / Very scared of CRT / Loves to roll around in spaghetti / With extra cheese.”
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