Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political operation began calling out Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation in an effort to consolidate support after four members publicly endorsed Donald Trump in his 2024 presidential bid.
Sources with four of the six members contacted by DeSantis’ team shared the scope with NBC News; each requested anonymity to confirm the calls.
As Trump continues to lead in the polls for the GOP presidential nomination, the governor is trying to stem the defections in his own backyard ahead of his expected candidacy. DeSantis currently does not have the endorsement of the state delegation.
The governor’s team’s efforts began after Trump won the endorsement of Rep. Byron Donalds, who has been an ally of DeSantis. The previous three endorsements were from Reps. Anna Paulina Luna, Matt Gaetz and Cory Mills, who are vocal supporters of Trump and whose endorsement was not surprising.
Since Donalds came out for Trump, DeSantis’ team has called at least six members of Florida’s congressional delegation, asking them to refrain from making any endorsements in the near future. The members called up by the DeSantis team are: representatives Aaron Bean, Vern Buchanan, Kat Cammack, Mario Diaz-Balart, Laurel Lee and Greg Steube.
Ryan Tyson, a longtime Republican pollster and a mainstay in DeSantis’s political orbit, has led the effort. Tyson initiated the calls and reached out to schedule a subsequent call between the member of Congress and DeSantis himself.
«Clearly there is some angst in the DeSantis camp that so many members of the state’s congressional delegation are supporting Trump,» said a Republican consultant to one of the members contacted by the governor’s team. «Gaetz going with Trump is one thing, but Byron’s endorsement of the former president certainly rattled some cages.»
DeSantis’ political team did not respond to a request for comment.
There was general concern among each of the members that they were caught in the middle of what is expected to be a tough 2024 primary battle between Trump and DeSantis, who is expected to announce his run for the White House in May or June.
“They are both great Republicans and we’ll see what unfolds in the future,” said Max Goodman, Buchanan’s adviser.
A Cammack adviser said he has not yet made a decision on an endorsement and has not yet decided when it will arrive.
“Not only does she have great relationships with all of the top candidates, but she plans to continue to talk to all of them at some point about endorsements in the process,” the person said. «Once she’s in it, she’ll be willing to support her candidate.»
“Calls have been made,” said a top adviser to another Florida congressional Republican contacted by DeSantis’ team.
Donalds’ endorsement was considered more significant than previous congressional endorsements for several reasons. The DeSantis administration poured billions of dollars into Southwest Florida, which Donalds represents, after Hurricane Ian, a devastating storm that hit the region in September 2022 and was the costliest storm in state history. DeSantis has also supported an effort led by the Donalds’ wife, Erika, to elect conservative members to local school boards.
In 2022, DeSantis endorsed several of his candidates in school board races, in which governors generally have not been involved. She also appointed her to the Florida Gulf Coast University board of trustees in March 2022.
On election night in November, Donalds himself was the person who introduced DeSantis at the victory night party in Tampa. In particular, he referred to DeSantis as «the governor of the United States.»
Donalds told NBC News during an interview Wednesday that he was supporting Trump because the country needed someone «ready for prime time,» and he thought Trump was that person. He echoed his statement last week endorsing the former president.
“There is only one leader at this time in our nation’s history who can seize the moment and deliver what we need,” Donalds said in his statement at the time. “That is why I am honored to endorse the present Donald J. Trump for President in 2024, and I ask my fellow Americans to join me.
DeSantis won re-election during the 2022 midterm elections by nearly 20 percentage points, helped by a state legislature with Republican majorities.
However, in recent months, DeSantis has faced new political headwinds as Trump has attacked Trump. He, too, has suffered some self-inflicted wounds, including having to retract comments he made about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine being a «territorial dispute» and stumbling over how to respond to Trump’s legal problems.
The wave of Florida congressional endorsements for Trump comes as he faces a 34-count federal indictment from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The charges have given him a boost among Republican primary voters, who view Bragg’s work as political.