In his latest effort to undermine Ron DeSantis in his home state, former President Donald Trump is courting Florida Republicans before and after this weekend’s major Republican meeting in Central Florida.
On Saturday in Kissimmee, DeSantis and Trump will be among the many speakers at the Freedom Summit hosted by the Florida Republican Party. While DeSantis will speak first thing in the morning, Trump, who is still leading in early states and nationwide, will close off the event.
In recent days, Trump’s campaign has been working to win over influential Republicans in Florida. On the same day as the Republican debate next week in Miami, which he will not be attending, he invited local party leaders to join him at a rally in Hialeah.
According to an invitation obtained by Playbook, Trump is promising anyone who accept the invitation “special guest seating” and “expedited entry” to the stadium where the rally would take place in Hialeah, a Hispanic-majority neighbourhood of Miami. The permits will allow attendees to skip the lines and guarantee them a good spot to watch the show.
The night following the GOP debate, Trump will welcome Republican leaders from all 67 counties in Florida at Mar-a-Lago. He’s hosting a “meet and greet” at his resort for at least 200 party officials and their guests. Three Republican invitees who plan to attend say Trump will speak and light refreshments will be served. They were able to communicate openly since they were certain of their privacy.
One Florida Republican who will be attending both the rally and the Mar-a-Lago event next week said, “It’s important to get people together in a room so they feel appreciated.”
While most of Florida’s Republican congressional delegation backs Trump, Republican state legislators in Florida are more likely to back DeSantis. But even that could change. This week, NBC News reported that Trump’s supporters are making an effort to persuade Republican lawmakers who backed DeSantis to reverse their positions and instead support Trump.
There has been a defection from the DeSantis camp. Last week, Florida’s lone Jewish Republican state representative, Rep. Randy Fine, switched his support from DeSantis to Trump on the grounds that the governor hadn’t done enough to combat anti-Semitism.
Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott endorsed Trump yesterday, which was expected given Scott’s close relationship with Bush and his history of animosity for DeSantis. The Messenger was the first to report Scott’s support. On Saturday, during the Freedom Summit, both Fine and Scott will share the stage.
DeSantis’ campaign spokesman, Andrew Romeo, responded by saying that the governor has more support from state legislators than Trump did in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
It’s impossible to deny the impact that Trump is having in the state on the outcome of the presidential election. In September, officials with the Republican Party of Florida voted to eliminate a provision in state bylaws that required any candidate wishing to be included on the March 19 presidential primary ballot to promise fealty to the eventual nominee.
Vote was considered as a win for Trump, whose supporters had lobbied state Republicans to abandon the promise. It was one of the most telling indicators of the decline in DeSantis’ support as he attempts to get traction in the polls.