Florida’s rightwing governor, Ron DeSantis, has rolled out a hefty list of endorsements from Iowa lawmakers as he visited the crucial early-voting state on Saturday in an attempt to garner support for his potential Republican presidential campaign.
The pro-DeSantis Super Pac Never Back Down announced endorsements from 37 Republican Iowa state senators and representatives, including the Iowa senate president, Amy Sinclair, and the state house majority leader, Matt Windschitl.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Sinclair praised DeSantis, saying that he stands “head and shoulders” above other Republican presidential candidates including Donald Trump and that the choice is “an easy endorsement for me”.
Windschitl echoed similar sentiments, telling the outlet: “We need somebody that’s accountable to the people that has proven in their state that they can do this job and take that same prosperity and spread it throughout America.”
However, DeSantis is landing in Iowa – the first state in the Republican nomination process – after a tough few weeks. The Republican frontrunner, the former US president Donald Trump, has repeatedly attacked his ex-ally and holds a commanding lead in polls. An overseas trip by DeSantis was also seen as falling flat and he has struggled recently to impress some big Republican donors.
On Saturday, DeSantis and his wife, Casey, attended the 2023 Feenstra Family Picnic hosted by the state representative Randy Feenstra in Sioux Center. DeSantis’s visit to the state is widely regarded as an early attempt at swaying Iowa Republicans, many of whom will attend an outdoor rally hosted by Trump later this evening in Des Moines.
During the fundraiser, DeSantis boasted about his conservative accomplishments in Florida’s ongoing culture war, including abortion bans, blocking diversity and inclusion programs, and legislation that allows residents to carry concealed weapons without a government-issued permit.
“In Florida, we are a freedom zone permanently,” DeSantis said, adding: “I think we need to restore sanity in this country,” as the crowd applauded loudly while eating hamburgers.
“If you look at what’s going on in Washington DC, if we were sitting here ten years ago and someone told you we would be over $31tn in debt, you would not have believed that was the case and yet the Democrats keep borrowing and saving like drunken sailors,” he said ahead of the elections in which he is expected to soon formally announce his candidacy as Trump’s chief challenger.
“If you compare how Florida’s managed or Iowa’s managed to states governed by leftist politicians, it’s like night and day,” DeSantis continued.
The governor appeared to also take a veiled jab at Trump.
“We must reject the culture of losing that has impacted our party in recent years. The time for excuses is over,” DeSantis said, referring to a series of electoral losses suffered by Republicans in the 2020 election and the 2022 midterms.
“If we get distracted, if we focus the election on the past or on other side issues, then I think the Democrats are going to beat us again,” he told the crowd of several hundred conservatives.