TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s top two Republicans in the state legislature endorse Ron DeSantis’ as-yet-unofficial run for president, a move expected to unleash a wave of public support that will help bolster the governor’s influence in the state. that both he and his main competitor, former President Donald Trump, call home.
“Gov. DeSantis has a proven track record of delivering on the pro-family and pro-economic ideals that will not only keep Florida free, but will be critically important in the 2024 presidential election,” said Florida House Speaker Paul Renner. «As Governor DeSantis makes his final decision to run for higher office, I would be honored to endorse his candidacy for President of the United States.»
Renner’s comments came after he and Florida Senate Speaker Kathleen Passidomo attended a press conference where DeSantis signed legislation aimed at cracking down on human trafficking.
“Gov. DeSantis is exactly the type of leader we need for our country, and I look forward to supporting him for president,» Passidomo said.
House and Senate presidents who publicly endorse DeSantis are expected to kick off a wave of endorsements from Florida Republican lawmakers.
It is the public-facing byproduct of an active lobbying campaign waged by DeSantis supporters since the Florida legislative session ended in early May. That effort, led in party by state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a DeSantis ally, has been wildly successful.
A pro-DeSantis super PAC, Never Back Down, is expected to unveil a list of all legislative endorsements later this week. The list will include a «vast majority» of Florida Republican lawmakers, according to two sources familiar with the efforts.
Beyond trying to block his home state Legislature, part of the DeSantis supporters’ strategy was to break the perception that Florida Republicans were overwhelmingly behind the Trump campaign.
In early April, Trump won the endorsement of 10 Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation, something that made DeSantis’ initial political operation seem unprepared and outmatched.
Trump’s team, led by Florida State Sen. Joe Gruters, has also been working to try to win some legislative endorsements, but those efforts have so far yielded little.
“Joe Gruters and the Trump campaign are so late to the party that they keep running into walls trying to get support,” said a Republican lawmaker familiar with the efforts.
Gruters is a former chairman of the Florida Republican Party and so far the only state-level lawmaker to publicly endorse Trump. The two have a long-standing relationship. When Gruters was chair of the Sarasota County Republican Party, he named Trump «Statesman of the Year» twice, in 2012 and 2015.
Gruters did not return a request for comment.
The Trump campaign said DeSantis has great influence over state legislators because he has the ability to sign or veto both their bills and any items they have in the state budget for projects in their districts.
«Ron DeSantis has terrified the entire legislature with the threat of their veto if they don’t accede to his demands,» said Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesman. “Those he cannot control, almost the entire Florida congressional delegation entity, have endorsed President Trump because he is the only candidate who can beat Joe Biden and win back the White House.”
DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment. To date, no state lawmaker has suggested that his endorsement was made under the threat of a veto.