Trump and DeSantis spar over how long they could serve as president

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has zeroed in on a potential vulnerability for Donald Trump in his quest to defeat him for the GOP presidential nomination — the fact that the former president can serve just one term if elected.During campaign stops in Iowa and New Hampshire this week, DeSantis repeatedly highlighted that he, unlike Trump, could serve two consecutive terms and therefore would be better positioned to enact more permanent change. Trump, meanwhile, has hit back by suggesting that he could accomplish a similar set of goals much faster. He has countered that if DeSantis is talking about needing eight full years “you don’t want him as your president.”The emerging battlefield is one Trump’s GOP detractors have seen as an opening to take on the former president for months now, as NBC News reported earlier this year. Trump is limited to only serve one additional term if he wins because the Constitution prohibits a person from being elected president more than twice.Speaking in New Hampshire on Thursday about needing to upend the federal bureaucracy, DeSantis said, “You really need to ensure that we have a two-term president to be able to see this to a conclusion.””I mean, you do one term, and they reverse it when they come in,” he added. “You can’t have it be reversed. We can’t let the bureaucracy just wait us out.”Those comments echoed remarks he made Wednesday in Iowa during his pitch on dramatically changing the federal workforce.”There have been many people that have talked about doing something about it,” he said of the “administrative state.” “No one’s really been able to make much of a difference. And I think part of the reason is you really need a very disciplined energetic president willing to spit nails and fight the needed battles every single day for eight years.””Just to be clear, this is not something you can just flip a switch on,” he added. “If it was, it would be so easy, right? Some people could tell you, ‘I’ll fix it all in the first day.’ That’s not the way it works. This is really, really significant, day after day. And it really requires two terms to be able to finish the job. I think we could bring George Washington back, and I don’t think he could do it in just one four-year term.”Former President Donald Trump arrives to meet with local Republican leaders at the Machine Shed restaurant in Urbandale, Iowa, on Thursday. Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty ImagesTrump has taken notice of DeSantis’ swipes. Speaking in Iowa on Thursday, the former president promised he could get done “within six months” what would take DeSantis two terms.”When he says eight years, every time I hear it I winced,” Trump said, “because they say if it takes eight years to turn this around … You don’t want him as your president.”And in a radio interview with Iowa-based conservative radio host Simon Conway, Trump emphasized: “I don’t need eight years.””I can turn this around so fast, getting inflation down, getting interest rates down, getting the economy back. This is going to take six months,” he added. “When I hear him saying he needs eight years — if he needs eight years to turn it around, you don’t want him as your president. I can tell you that.”While few Republicans think Trump’s term-limited candidacy will be the primary case a rival can use to bolster their bid, some Republicans think it will be helpful. Ahead of his launch last month, DeSantis’ team signaled it would be highlighting Trump’s inability to serve two terms as part of its messaging.“It may give folks who are inclined to sort of move away from Trump anyway cover with their pro-Trump friends — you know, ‘I’d vote for Trump in a second if I thought he could serve eight years, but four is just not enough,’” Mick Mulvaney, who served as Trump’s acting White House chief of staff, told NBC News earlier this year. Trump allies, meanwhile, have echoed Trump’s recent comments on the matter by saying he could do more in four years than someone else could do in eight.“I think people are into one-terming. I think we’re just an impatient country,” one adviser close to Trump said earlier this year. “I think that Trump won’t say ‘only one term.’ I think what he’ll say is ‘I want to complete the unfinished business.”DeSantis clearly doesn’t see it the same way. Pressed by NBC News’ Gabe Gutierrez on Thursday about Trump’s claims he can — within six months — make do on similar promises DeSantis says will take longer to fully achieve, the Florida governor fired back: “Then why didn’t he do it his first four years?”Allan SmithAllan Smith is a political reporter for NBC News.Henry J. Gomez, Natasha Korecki, Jonathan Allen and Vaughn Hillyard contributed.

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