Governor Kim Reynolds’ decision to support Ron DeSantis risks angering Donald Trump, who has already accused Reynolds of not being loyal enough.
After months of quietly signaling her support for Ron DeSantis, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will officially endorse the Florida governor’s bid for president at a rally in Des Moines on Monday, sources close to the two to the Des Moines Register.
This approval is a huge victory for DeSantis, who hopes to exploit Reynolds’ star power among Iowa Republicans as he seeks to revive his stagnant campaign and establish himself as a clear alternative to front-runner Donald Trump in the race’s critical final months.
Reynolds plans to speak at DeSantis’ pre-debate rally Monday as well as at a meeting in Davenport Tuesday morning. She will then fly to Miami to help raise money for Wednesday’s debate.
In an Oct. 25 phone call with Iowa reporters, DeSantis said winning Reynolds’ formal support would be “a huge win” for his campaign.
“I think what she was able to do in Iowa was really a model for how people should govern,” he said. “…Clearly, I think she could have a really significant impact.” And I think any candidate who runs would be foolish not to want to have Reynolds’ support. »
This decision risks angering Trump, who has already attacked Reynolds because of his apparent comfort with DeSantis, accusing her of being insufficiently loyal. Reynolds was a strong ally of Trump while he was in the White House, but she withheld any support for him early in the 2024 race.
Indeed, shortly after the news broke, Trump’s campaign issued a statement saying, “Kim Reynolds apparently began her retirement tour early because she clearly has no ambitions for higher office.” »
“Earlier this year, she promised her voters that she would remain neutral in the race, but she completely went back on that promise,” the Trump campaign said. “No matter what, his support will make no difference in this race.”
Trump jumped in shortly afterward to complain about Reynolds’ “disloyalty,” then made several questionable claims taking credit for his success and keeping the Iowa Republican caucuses ranked first in the nation.
“I opened the position to Reynolds, so she became governor of Iowa, moving Terry Branstad to China as ambassador. I then helped her when she was significantly depressed and losing to the Democratic candidate , and I worked hard to get her elected, including a TRUMP endorsement and big rallies,” Trump posted on his social media site, Truth Social. “Very importantly, I was the only reason Iowa remained FIRST IN THE NATION.”
It’s rare, but not unprecedented, for Iowa’s top elected officials to come out in favor of candidates before the caucuses.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley supported his good friend, U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, in 1988 and 1996, and former Gov. Terry Branstad encouraged Iowans to caucus. for everyone except US Senator Ted Cruz in 2016.
But it’s much more common for high-profile Iowa politicians to take a hands-off approach. Grassley and others have pledged to remain neutral this cycle.
Reynolds also initially excluded from endorsing anyone before the Iowa Caucuses, saying she preferred to host the full slate of candidates in the state. But more recently, she has opened the door to this possibility.
At an Oct. 25 news conference, Reynolds said she was still considering support, 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 appeared on the campaign trail with all the presidential candidates. But she seemed to form a strong relationship with DeSantis early on, introducing him to Iowans. during his first trip to the state in March and frequently appearing with him and his wife, Casey.
Reynolds and DeSantis charted similar political paths, boosting their national profiles amid the COVID-19 pandemic when they led Republican states in pushing back on shutdowns and mask mandates while relying on controversial issues of culture war.
Both governors signed laws banning school education on LGBTQ topics, providing private, state-funded scholarships to all families, and banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Trump called Florida’s version of the bill a “terrible mistake.”
DeSantis even said he would consider Reynolds as vice presidential candidate.
How much will Kim Reynolds’ support help Ron DeSantis ahead of the Iowa caucuses?
According to a October Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll Among likely Republican caucus attendees, 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 exceeds double digits.
DeSantis’ campaign and allied super PAC invested millions of dollars to stage the state’s largest field operation ahead of the caucuses, although he failed to gain traction in the polls. In fact, his standing has fallen in the Iowa and other national polls.
Reynolds, who remains very popular among Iowa’s Republican base, could be a powerful ally to help shore up support.
“I would say with great confidence that Kim Reynolds is the only person in the state of Iowa who could be a king or queenmaker,” said Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann. previously told the Register. “A lot of people like to call themselves kingmakers because it helps them move their organization forward, but she’s the only one who can be.”
In Iowa, Kim Reynolds is more popular than Donald Trump
According to data from the Iowa Poll, Reynolds is viewed more favorably among likely Republican caucus attendees than any of the presidential candidates.
In August, the survey found that 81% viewed it favorably, of which 50% viewed it very favorably. 18% of them viewed it negatively and 1% were not sure.
In the October survey, which did not ask about Reynolds, 69% of likely GOP caucus attendees say they view DeSantis favorably and 26% view him unfavorably. Another 5% are unsure.
Trump is viewed favorably by 66% and unfavorably by 32% and only 1% are unsure.
But it’s also unclear whether a single endorsement can significantly shift the situation in DeSantis’ favor.
“The thing is, Iowans, what you love about them is they’re very savvy. And yet, they like to make their own decisions. So the supports only go so far,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of Family Leader. previously told the Register. “…There is no guarantee that others will follow suit.”
Vander Plaats is also wondering if he will participate in the race. He said the endorsements could be significant if they begin to show that Republicans are rallying around an alternative to Trump.
“I think there could be a potential where, you know, you could see a domino effect of different mentions,” he said. “If they all rally around one candidate, that would be a signal to a lot of people.”
In a February interview, Reynolds said she thought Iowans were looking for a winner.
“I just think they think it’s important that we take back the White House, so I think they’re looking for someone who can win,” Reynolds said. “So they want to have confidence in the message. They want to believe that they will do what they say they will do.
“They want someone who has the integrity and the will 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 Register’s chief political reporter. Contact her at [email protected] or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.