Ron DeSantis is reportedly about to pick up a big endorsement, and it’s an endorsement that could hurt GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.
Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis super PAC, took to X/Twitter on Sunday to share an NBC News report that Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds will be throwing her support behind DeSantis. The announcement is expected to be made on Monday at a DeSantis rally.
— Never Back Down (@NvrBackDown24) November 5, 2023
Reporter Dasha Burns shared the news on the Sunday edition of Meet the Press:
“Will Iowa governor Kim Reynolds endorse? It’s a question that campaigns, voters and reporters have been asking throughout this primary, and we now have the answer. Reynolds will endorse a candidate and that candidate is Ron DeSantis, according to sources close to both governors. She’s going to make it official at a rally tomorrow night here in Des Moines.”
As noted in Burns’ report, this is a big break in presidential politics tradition, as the Iowa governor typically foregoes making an endorsement because Iowa is first-in-country in casting ballots in the presidential primary (or, in Iowa’s case, participating in its caucuses). Reynolds has said in the past that she wouldn’t be making an endorsement but may have changed her mind when she found herself on the receiving end of Trump’s ire.
The cause of Trump’s ire? Reynolds had participated in several DeSantis rallies, which clearly rankled Trump:
“I opened up the Governor position for Kim Reynolds, & when she fell behind, I ENDORSED her, did big Rallies, & she won,” Trump wrote in a Truth Social post. “Now, she wants to remain ‘NEUTRAL.’ I don’t invite her to events! DeSanctus down 45 points!”
Trump has similarly taken credit for DeSantis’ first gubernatorial win in 2018 when the then-president endorsed DeSantis won in his close race with Democrat Andrew Gillum. Much of Trump’s anger on the 2024 campaign trail stems from what he perceives as a lack of loyalty from candidates he once endorsed.
As RedState has been reporting, the presidential endorsement chess game is on. Senator Rick Scott of Florida endorsed Trump last week and all but called for the other candidates to drop out of the race and unite behind Trump. DeSantis responded to this endorsement by saying, “I must have missed where those voters have actually voted yet. Isn’t it odd that we haven’t had one contest, and there’s people that are having a rush to try to sort of short circuit the people’s voice.”
Nonetheless, a Reynolds endorsement is a big get for DeSantis. Reynolds is a social conservative who is very popular and very influential in her state. She has been closely aligned with DeSantis on many issues, including COVID and abortion, and her support will undoubtedly be a big boost for him in Iowa. Current polling shows DeSantis trailing Trump in Iowa by more than 30 percent, so this endorsement comes at a crucial point for DeSantis.
This endorsement may lead to a softening of support for Trump in Iowa, but it could also hurt him in other ways: If Reynolds is willing to buck tradition by getting involved this early, who might follow her lead? Are there other governors or prominent state officials in early primary states who see DeSantis as a valid alternative to Trump and are willing to make their support official?
The Iowa caucuses will take place January 15, 2024, followed by primaries in Nevada and South Carolina.