For all his wealth, there is one area in Donald Trump’s life where he is conspicuously poor: friends. He has an entourage, his family, golf buddies, and of course the Maga fan club, but pals are never mentioned.

So it was only ever going to be a matter of time before he fell out with his one-time apprentice, Ron DeSantis. Hard to imagine now how the pair ever played nice together.

At least the Florida governor could count on the media being on his side. As the main contender for the Republican nomination after Trump, DeSantis has received acres of coverage, most of it positive. That has begun to change, much to the delight of his adversary.

On Saturday, the former president used his platform, Truth Social, to target DeSantis, or DeSanctimonious to give him his Trump nickname. Accusing the governor of doing nothing to combat rising home and car insurance costs in Florida, and running a campaign that was going “absolutely nowhere”, he told him: “Come home, Ron, where you belong. Get those insurance rates way down, because what’s happening in Florida shouldn’t happen anywhere.”

Trump added: “He will soon not be number two. He deserves it; he’s a very disloyal person.”

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DeSantis is a long way from losing his spot as main contender to Trump. The wannabe nominees below him in the polls have yet to reach double figures. Trump, meanwhile, is so far ahead he is in a different timezone.

In the most recent poll of polls on the FiveThirtyEight website, Trump was on 50.8% Republican support, and DeSantis on 19.5%. After that, the next hopeful, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, was just ahead of Mike Pence, the former vice-president, at 6.8% and 6.6% respectively.

That Trump should be ahead at this stage in the race was a given, but this far? Two factors are keeping him ahead: his notoriety, and DeSantis’s stumbling.

The launch of DeSantis’s campaign on Twitter in May was a technical disaster. Even before that, his blunders were racking up. He lost a fight with Disney after the firm criticised his “don’t say gay” law. The Mouse, a major employer in the state, cancelled plans to build a new mega campus there.

Add to this DeSantis’s grumpiness at campaign events, and his lurching further to the right on migrants, backing “deadly force” against suspected drug runners. He is still raising money by the millions but he is spending it faster. Some staff have been laid off.

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In short, the one-time golden boy – Harvard/Yale grandson of Italian immigrants, military service in Iraq, six years as Congressman – is fast losing his lustre.

Under the headline, “The humiliation of Ron DeSantis”, Helen Lewis in The Atlantic summed up the governor’s likeability problem: “He promised to run as Trump plus an attention span, and instead he is running as Trump minus jokes.” Or as the ex-president himself put it: “The more people get to know him, the lower his polls are going.”

The latest point of contention is who put up a stronger fight against lockdown demands during Covid. For that, DeSantis acquired a new Trump nickname, “Lockdown Ron” (not one of The Donald’s more inspired efforts, it has to be said).

DeSantis is having trouble responding to Trump’s jibes, and reacting to him in general. He is not alone in that among the Republican hopefuls. Do they take Trump on and suffer the wrath of the Maga faithful, or try to appear on side while strategically distancing themselves?

DeSantis has been all over the shop. On the big question, the court trials Trump is facing, he has sided with the former president in suggesting bias in the justice system. He told CNN: “This country is going down the road of criminalising political differences, and that’s wrong.”

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Trump expects a third indictment will be along soon, this one accusing him of stoking the January 6 riots. He denies those allegations, ditto claims he paid hush money to cover up affairs, and took classified files with him on leaving the White House.

On Saturday, the judge in the documents trial set a start date of May 20 next year. The hush money claims will be heard on March 25, 2024.

By then, we will know who the Republican nominee is. What will DeSantis say if, by some freak occurence, it is him? Will he commit to pardoning the ex-commander in chief?

From being seen as helpful to DeSantis’s chances of becoming president, Trump is proving to be the mother, father and mentor of all headaches. With every supposed setback he grows stronger and raises more money.

No wonder DeSantis is having a sense of humour failure, assuming he had one to start. He won't be the last to find it is no joke taking on Trump.