Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will endorse Florida Gov.on Monday, providing a potential boost for his presidential campaign that has anchored itself in Iowa — but while he still trails former President Donald Trump in early state polling.
Reynolds will back DeSantis at a campaign event in Des Moines on Monday, before appearing at another stop Tuesday morning in Davenport, according to sources familiar with the planning. Iowa’s Republican caucus on Jan. 15 is the first nominating contest of the.
Reynolds has been a special guest at events for multiple candidates, but she is seen as a close ally for DeSantis and touts a similar record as governors on the issue of COVID-19 in particular. She also appeared at his campaign events earlier in the summer, and at one separate event with just his wife, Casey DeSantis.
Asked in late October by Iowa reporters what an endorsement from Reynolds would mean for his campaign, DeSantis said it’d be a “huge get.”
“I think any candidate running would be a fool. Not to want to have the support of Reynolds,” he said.
DeSantis has made Iowa front-and-center for his campaign, embarking on a tour of all 99 counties and moving a majority of his campaign staff to the Hawkeye state this fall.
Trump has criticized Reynolds for appearing close to DeSantis, despite previously saying she would not publicly endorse any one candidate in the presidential primary. Reynolds also spoke out against Trump for criticizing DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban as a “terrible thing.” Reynolds has signed a similar abortion ban in Iowa that is currently being challenged in the courts.
DeSantis’Trump’s animosity towards the Iowa governor, who is popular among Republicans, could create an opening to cut into his lead.
In August, a Des Moines Register poll found that Reynolds had an 81% approval rating among likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa. She has endorsed DeSantis as his campaign trails Trump’s, and as he confronts another obstacle in Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who is also in the running for the Republican presidential nomination.
An October Des Moines Register/NBC poll showed 43% of Iowa’s likely Republican caucus-goers picked Trump as their first choice for president, while DeSantis and Haley were tied at 16% a piece. Another poll commissioned by a nonprofit that has hosted events for DeSantis showed him leading Haley, 20% to 12%, but still trailing Trump who registered 46%.
A late August poll from Trump’s super PAC, MAGA Inc., suggested an endorsement from Reynolds wouldn’t bolster DeSantis’ odds enough to get past Trump, with the former president still capturing 42% of likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers and DeSantis getting 20%.
In a reaction to the endorsement, Trump’s campaign put out internal polling showing that 72% of Iowa respondents said her endorsement wouldn’t impact their vote. “Kim Reynolds apparently has begun her retirement tour early as she clearly does not have any ambition for higher office,” his campaign wrote in a press email.
Asked by CBS News after an Iowa event in July if he’d pick Reynolds as a potential running mate, DeSantis replied, “of course” and defended his fellow GOP governor on some of Trump’s criticisms.
“The number one thing people have come up to me and shaking their heads about was Donald Trump attacking Kim Reynolds. They couldn’t believe it,” he said in July.
— Musadiq Bidar contributed reporting.