Donald Trump has warned Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis against running for president in 2024, saying doing so would harm the Republican Party.
He also threatened to release unflattering information about the 44-year-old, without providing details.
Mr DeSantis won a landslide victory in Tuesday’s midterms, underlining his popularity and further fuelling speculation he will launch a bid.
Mr Trump is also tipped to announce a presidential run in the coming days.
He told US network Fox News that the Florida governor should stay out of the race.
“I don’t know if he is running. I think if he runs, he could hurt himself very badly. I really believe he could hurt himself badly,” Mr Trump said. “I don’t think it would be good for the party.”
Mr DeSantis is considered by many to be the most likely candidate to supplant Mr Trump as the Republican candidate to run for president in 2024.
Mr Trump’s comments came just hours before Tuesday’s midterm elections to decide control of Congress.
He also branded the rising Republican star “Ron DeSanctimonious” at a rally over the weekend.
If Mr DeSantis were to announce a presidential bid, Mr Trump said he would reveal “things about him that won’t be very flattering – I know more about him than anybody – other than, perhaps, his wife”.
He did not provide details – but Mr Trump has previously made threats to release damaging information about rivals.
He later described his potential opponent as “a fine guy” and denied there was a dispute between them. “There’s not a tiff with me, and I’m way up in the polls,” he said.
Mr DeSantis is a relative newcomer to politics but rose to national prominence after becoming Florida governor in 2019. He has positioned himself as an enthusiastic champion of conservativism.
He won a landslide victory for a second term as Florida governor in the midterm elections on Tuesday. The scale of his win exceeded almost all expectations, winning by nearly 20 points over his Democrat rival, stoking further speculation that he may run for president in two years’ time.
Four years ago, the race was so close a recount was needed.
Mr Trump – a resident of the state – told reporters gathered outside a polling station earlier in the day that he had voted for Mr DeSantis.
Mr DeSantis has been tight-lipped about a potential presidential run but speculation has been rife. Mr Trump, meanwhile, said on Monday that he would make a “very big announcement” on 15 November.