CNN has learned that on Monday night, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds will endorse Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the 2024 Republican primary at a pre-debate gathering in Des Moines, Iowa.
The DeSantis campaign is using X (previously Twitter) to publicise Reynolds’ attendance at the rally.
Despite earlier indications that she would take no side in the GOP primary campaign, Reynolds has since shown signs of being open to supporting one of the candidates.
Reynolds will also join DeSantis on Tuesday for a meet-and-greet in Davenport, Iowa.
The endorsement was initially reported by the Des Moines Register and NBC News.
With the Iowa caucuses (the first step in the Republican primary) fewer than a hundred days away, DeSantis may receive a much-needed lift from Reynolds’ popularity among Republican voters in Iowa.
After Reynolds’ endorsement, Trump’s team released a statement saying the governor had “completely gone back on that promise” to her constituents by endorsing one candidate over the other. Regardless, her endorsement will not make any impact in this contest.”
According to October polls in Iowa, Trump has the support of nearly half of prospective Republican caucus-goers, 30 points more than DeSantis, the next closest challenger.
DeSantis is prioritising Iowa over other early battlegrounds in the hopes that he can clear the field and reset the GOP primary as a two-person fight with Trump if he can pull off a near-victory or outright win there.
One-third of the DeSantis campaign team has relocated from Tallahassee to Des Moines, and the Florida governor has promised to travel to each of the state’s 99 counties. As of the end of last month, he told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, he had visited 83.
You don’t always see it in polling—people shaking hands and asking questions. We’re doing it properly because it emerges when people make caucus decisions. DeSantis claimed on “The Source” that he will be the only candidate to visit all 99 counties.
As of the beginning of this month, Never Back Down, a super PAC that supports DeSantis, had spent $9.8 million promoting the governor on Iowa airwaves, more than any other political committee or campaign.
Influential Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats called the endorsement a “game changer” for the primary on Sunday, and other prominent conservative Iowans swiftly weighed in with their reactions.
Reynolds has a lot of sway in Iowa because “she is exceptionally popular and a great competitor,” as Vander Plaats put it. She wouldn’t back something unless she was confident it would win.
Reynolds’ support “definitely helps” DeSantis’ campaign, according to Jeff Angelo, a conservative Iowa radio presenter whose popular show often invites on Republican presidential contenders despite Angelo’s expectation that Trump will still win in Iowa.
Despite Trump’s claims of solid Iowa support, the state’s governor has held a different opinion of the front-runner for months. Trump attacked Reynolds in July because she remained politically neutral and attended rallies in Iowa with other candidates.
The ex-president criticised her lack of support for him and took credit for her rise to governorship in a social media post. Reynolds, as the state’s lieutenant governor, succeeded Gov. Terry Branstad in 2017 after he became Trump’s ambassador to China, and she was elected to a first full term the following year.
In response to Trump’s criticisms, the other Republican presidential hopefuls sought to curry favour with the popular governor. During a July campaign stop in Iowa, DeSantis mentioned Reynolds as a possible running mate. He praised her as “one of the top public servants in America.”
In a late October conference call with Iowa journalists, DeSantis stated an endorsement from Reynolds “would be a huge get.”
Having her official backing would mean the world to me. I believe it would have tremendous significance.