On Sunday, the undefeated Seminoles faced a crushing decision from the panel which decides the four teams to compete in the annual championship between two of the biggest college football conferences in the US: the Big Ten, and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The reason for their exclusion, despite their perfect record, was the benching of their star quarterback Jordan Travis due to a season-ending leg injury.
Florida State’s fans and coaches alike were enraged by the decision. Head coach Mike Norvell wrote in a statement: "I am disgusted and infuriated with the committee’s decision today to have what was earned on the field taken away because a small group of people decided they knew better than the results of the game.”
He added: “What is the point of playing games?”
Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, given the history of Donald Trump and his bullying of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the former president wrote on Truth Social early Monday morning that Floridians should actually “blame” the state’s governor for the team’s exclusion from the upcoming playoff series set to begin on 1 Jan.
“Florida State was treated very badly by the ‘Committee.’ They become the first Power Five team to be left out of the College Football Playoffs. Really bad lobbying effort… Lets blame DeSanctimonious!!!” wrote the ex-president.
It’s a sign of just how petty the former president’s attacks aimed at his Republican primary rivals have become; despite his clear polling advantage, Mr Trump continues to lob childish insults at not just Mr DeSantis but fellow candidates Nikki Haley and Chris Christie, too.
Mr DeSantis had registered his own complaints about the College Football Playoff Committee’s decision a day earlier as it happened, tweeting: “What we learned today is that you can go undefeated and win your conference championship game, but the College Football Playoff committee will ignore these results. Congratulations to @FSUFootball on an outstanding season and winning the ACC championship!”
What we learned today is that you can go undefeated and win your conference championship game, but the College Football Playoff committee will ignore these results.
Congratulations to @FSUFootball on an outstanding season and winning the ACC championship!
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) December 3, 2023
The only prominent GOP candidate remaining who has successfully avoided Mr Trump’s brand of toxicity is Vivek Ramaswamy, the right-wing entrepreneur who has taken performatively outlandish positions throughout the primary including a promise to fire half of all federal employees. Mr Ramaswamy, notably, has avoided any direct criticism of Mr Trump and has openly praised his opponent during televised debates where Mr Trump himself was not in attendance.
The ex-president remains atop the GOP field with a new poll Monday from NewsNation indicating that he enjoys a 49-point lead nationally over Mr DeSantis, his highest-performing opponent.
His fellow Floridian’s campaign, however, has not fared well in recent weeks.
Buffeted by reports of internal turmoil and fears about the race’s trajectory, the DeSantis campaign has seen negative headline after negative headline while his closest rival, Nikki Haley, appears poised to overtake him in national polling. The latest blows to his presidential bid came over the weekend with the firing of Kristin Davidson, CEO of DeSantis-aligned super PAC Never Back Down; her ouster marks the second departure of a CEO from that effort in as many weeks.
The group’s previous leader, Chris Jankowski, resigned in late November while alluding to dynamics of the race that had turned against his favoured candidate.