Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is clearly the second choice for the GOP nomination in 2024 as of now. DeSantis trails former president Donald Trump by nearly every metric as the pre-campaign season heats up. However, as the cliche goes, ‘there’s a lot of ballgame left’ as both Trump and DeSantis join numerous wannabe candidates on the road for speaking events.
Trump spent the weekend in Florida at Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA event, where he wowed attendees and destroyed the Florida Governor in the straw poll. DeSantis skipped the event in his home state, and his poll performance reflected the disappointment many of those in attendance felt at the perceived snub.
While Trump was shaking hands and kissing babies in Florida, DeSantis spent the weekend in Tennessee and Iowa, getting a lukewarm reception from Volunteer State GOP members that have largely already pledged their support to President Trump.
While in Iowa, DeSantis teased at a surprising potential choice for Vice President should he overcome the heavily favored Trump. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is on DeSantis ‘short list’ of potential running mates.
Reynolds and DeSantis are already chummy, with the Iowa Governor having moderated conversations with DeSantis and his wife, Casey DeSantis, and they often compare the conservative track records of each state as a somewhat playful competition.
When asked about Reynolds as Vice President, DeSantis said: “Of course. I mean, she’s one of the top public servants in America.”
Friday, with DeSantis in attendance, Reynolds signed a strict abortion ban into law in front of roughly 200 Christian conservatives. DeSantis spoke about any potential criticism of the Iowa Governor: “Anybody who is a Republican who is trying to denigrate her is way off base on that.”
However, the DeSantis/Reynolds love-fest has not sat well with the GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. Trump took credit for Reynold’s ascension to the Governor’s Mansion on Truth Social, noting that he opened up the job when he named Republican Gov. Terry Branstad as U.S. ambassador to China during his administration.
Despite Trump’s flaws, he is a very loyal person, and when he perceives loyalty not returned, he calls it out. Since Reynolds apparently wants to keep her options open before throwing her support behind a candidate, President Trump is not happy. He said: “Now, she wants to remain ‘NEUTRAL.’”
Considering the massive lead Trump has in early polling, it’s a decision that could come back to haunt Reynolds. Conversely, criticizing a wildly popular Governor in a state that kicks off caucus season could be a bad idea for Trump, as well.
The former president is set to do a town hall meeting in Iowa Tuesday, but as of now, some GOP members in the state aren’t particularly pleased about the criticism of their governor. Ryan Frederick, a western Iowa county GOP chairman that is leaning toward DeSantis, said this: “At least, I don’t have to worry about him trashing Kim Reynolds. If you’re a party loyalist, that’s a big deal.”
This primary season could shape up to be a slugfest if DeSantis can close the gap and earn states like Iowa. He has much work to do to slow down the Trump Train, but teasing a popular conservative running mate like Kin Reynolds will only help.
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