After months of quietly signaling her support for , Iowa Gov. will formally endorse the Florida governor for president at a Des Moines rally Monday, sources close to both confirmed to the Des Moines Register.
The endorsement is an enormous win for DeSantis, who hopes to harness Reynolds’ star power among Iowa Republicans as he looks to jumpstart his stagnant campaign and establish himself as a clear alternative to front-runner in the race’s critical final months.
Reynolds plans to speak at DeSantis’ predebate rally Monday as well as a meet-and-greet Tuesday morning. She will then fly to Miami to help him fundraise around Wednesday’s Republican primary debate.
In an Oct. 25 call with Iowa reporters, DeSantis said earning Reynolds’ formal endorsement would be “a huge get” for his campaign.
“I think what she’s been able to do in Iowa has really been a model for how people should govern,” he said. “… Clearly, I think she could have a really significant impact. And I think any candidate running would be a fool not to want to have the support of Reynolds.”
The decision is likely to anger Trump, who has already lashed out at Reynolds over her apparent coziness with DeSantis, accusing her of being insufficiently loyal. Reynolds was a firm Trump ally while he was in the White House, but she withheld any endorsement of him early in the 2024 race.
It’s rare, though not unprecedented, for Iowa’s top elected officials to weigh in on behalf of candidates ahead of the caucuses.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley endorsed his good friend, U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, in 1988 and 1996, and former Gov. Terry Branstad encouraged Iowans to caucus for anyone but U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2016.
But it’s far more common for Iowa’s high-profile political figures to take a hands-off approach. Grassley and others have pledged to remain neutral this cycle.
Reynolds, too, had initially ruled out endorsing anyone ahead of the Iowa Caucuses, saying she preferred to welcome the full slate of candidates into the state. But, more recently, she opened the door to the possibility.
At an Oct. 25 news conference, Reynolds said she was still weighing an endorsement, suggesting she felt compelled by big national issues like inflation and border security.
“It’s just too important,” she said. “This next election is too important.”
Reynolds has appeared on the campaign trail with every presidential contender. But she appeared to strike a strong, early relationship with DeSantis, introducing him to Iowans during his first trip to the state in March and appearing frequently with him and his wife, Casey.
Reynolds and DeSantis have charted similar political paths, growing their national profiles amid the COVID-19 pandemic when they led Republican states in pushing back against shutdowns and mask mandates while leaning into controversial culture war issues.
Both governors have signed laws prohibiting school instruction in LGBTQ topics, offering state-funded private school scholarships to all families, and banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Trump called the Florida version of that bill “a terrible mistake.”
DeSantis has even said he would consider Reynolds as a vice-presidential candidate.
How much will Kim Reynolds’ endorsement help Ron DeSantis ahead of the Iowa caucuses?
According to an October Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll of likely Republican caucusgoers, DeSantis is tied for second place with former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. They are at 16% — well behind former president Trump, who is at 43%.
No other candidate cracks double digits.
DeSantis’ campaign and allied super PAC have poured millions of dollars into amassing the state’s largest field operation ahead of the caucuses, though he has failed to gain traction in the polls. In fact, his standing has slipped in the Iowa Poll and in other national polling.
Reynolds, who remains deeply popular among Iowa’s Republican base, could be a powerful ally in helping to consolidate support.
“I would say with a great deal of confidence that Kim Reynolds is the only person in the state of Iowa that could be a king or a queenmaker,” Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann previously told the Register. “There’s a lot of people who like to cast themselves as kingmaker because it helps them to push their organizations, but she’s the only one that could be.”
In Iowa, Kim Reynolds is more popular than Donald Trump
According to Iowa Poll data, Reynolds is viewed more favorably among likely Republican caucusgoers than any of the presidential candidates.
In August, the poll found that 81% viewed her favorably, including 50% who viewed her very favorably. Another 18% viewed her unfavorably and 1% were not sure.
In the October poll, which did not ask about Reynolds, 69% of likely GOP caucusgoers say they view DeSantis favorably and 26% view him unfavorably. Another 5% are not sure.
Trump is viewed favorably by 66% and unfavorably by 32% with just 1% not sure.
But it’s also not clear whether a single endorsement can substantially move the needle in DeSantis’ favor.
“The thing is that Iowans, what you love about them is that they’re very savvy. And yet, they like making their own decisions. So, endorsements only go so far,” Family Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats previously told the Register. “… There’s no guarantee others will follow the lead.”
Vander Plaats is also weighing whether to endorse in the race. He said that endorsements could be meaningful if they begin to show Republicans coalescing around a Trump alternative.
“I think there could be a potential where, you know, you could see a domino effect of different endorsements,” he said. “If they all rally around one candidate, that’d be a signal to a lot of people.”
In a February interview, Reynolds said that she believes Iowans are looking for a winner.
“I just think that they think it’s important that we take back the White House, so I think they’re looking for somebody that can win,” Reynolds said. “So, they want to feel confident in the message. They want to believe that they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do.
“They want somebody that has the integrity and the willingness to stand strong — to stand up for their freedom, for America, for this country.”
Des Moines Register reporter Katie Akin contributed to this story.
Brianne Pfannenstiel is the chief politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at [email protected] or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Ron DeSantis to land key Iowa endorsement over Donald Trump
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