Trump Says Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley GOP's Future, All Trail Him in 2024 Polls

Former President Donald Trump on Monday listed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri as his top picks to lead the Republican Party into the future.

Trump told Fox News contributor Lisa Marie Boothe on her podcast Monday that his 2020 election numbers were "much better" than in 2016, an accurate statement in regards to his increased draw of minority voters, but inaccurate in terms of his Electoral College count. Trump continued to claim without evidence that he lost a "rigged election" against President Joe Biden before briefly mentioning who he thinks will step up and lead the GOP in a hypothetical post-Trump political world. He then named three of his most fanatical Republican supporters in Washington throughout the impeachment trials and weeks of baseless election fraud claims.

A straw poll taken at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last month found DeSantis in second place, trailing only Trump. Trump repeatedly touted his performance in the poll during the Monday podcast. However, more than two-thirds of CPAC voters, or 68 percent, said they don't want Trump to run again for president in 2024.

"We have a lot of young, good people. Ron DeSantis is doing a really good job in Florida, and I think Josh Hawley has shown some real courage in going after big tech. You know, they go after him," Trump said on the podcast. "Josh is terrific. And you know somebody that's been really terrific is Ted Cruz."

"Over the last, you know, [Cruz] and I had it out for a while. Actually, we were very close even during the campaign, and then he got nasty. The press would say, when's the nastiness going to start? I said, don't worry, it'll start. And then he got very, very, you know, rather violent and vicious. But then it simmered down and he's been great."

Despite Trump's claim that Cruz got "nasty" with him during the 2016 GOP presidential primary race, it was Trump who shared an unflattering photograph of Cruz's wife, Heidi, on social media in May 2016. The meme depicted her next to a glowing picture of future first lady Melania Trump and contained the text, "the images are worth a thousand words."

Trump later floated a conspiracy theory about Cruz's father, Cuban-born preacher Rafael Cruz, claiming he had a role in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, in 1963.

Trump's 2018 endorsement of then-Florida Congressman DeSantis during his gubernatorial campaign helped propel him to victory, pollsters said this week. GOP strategists have noted that DeSantis appears to be setting himself up as Trump's self-appointed successor.

"I think he's the odds-on favorite to be the next president," if Trump doesn't run again, said Joe Gruters, a Florida state senator and chairman of the state Republican Party.

Trump went on to name-drop Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul as "great," despite the two exchanging a "sophomoric" round of barbs at each other during the first few 2015 GOP presidential primary debates.

But ultimately, Trump concluded that he is still the best choice to lead the Republican Party into the future.

"That's why I got 75 million votes, probably much more than that," he said.

Trump's longtime former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, said during CPAC that Trump "thinks he's a god" within the cult-like GOP.

Newsweek reached out to Hawley, Cruz and DeSantis' offices for reaction Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump is brought on stage by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during a rally on October 22, 2018, at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Getty Images