DeSantis to run Iowa campaign ad featuring former Trump supporters

In a new ad, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is showcasing Iowa voters who voted for former President Donald Trump in the past — and are now supporting DeSantis in 2024. 

His campaign’s third ad, airing only in Iowa, comes with less than six weeks until the Iowa caucuses, where Trump maintains a double-digit lead over the rest of the GOP field in polls. 

“I definitely voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020,” says Anthony, an Iowa small business owner, at the start of the ad, first obtained by CBS News. 

“But we’ve got to move on. Governor DeSantis has proven himself in Florida,” says Ross, another voter in the ad. Another voter, named Kristine, touts DeSantis as “drama-free” and “an effective and proven leader.”

DeSantis campaign ad:

Iowans for Ron by Ron DeSantis on YouTube

Other testimonies from voters in the ad highlight voter support for DeSantis’ proposed border and economic policy and feature clips of Florida bills signed by DeSantis. The ad closes with a shot of DeSantis’ family on stage with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. 

The ad begins running on broadcast and cable in Iowa on Tuesday. 

In Iowa, DeSantis trails Trump by at least 30 points on average, according to an aggregate of polls by RealClearPolitics. In an October Des Moines Register/NBC poll, former Trump-era Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley tied DeSantis, and the two, who each had 16% support, trailed Trump, who was the first choice of 43% of likely Iowa caucus goers in the poll.

The DeSantis spot is part of a more than $2 million ad reservation the campaign made in October for ads from November through the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses, another indication the campaign is anchoring its viability for the GOP nomination on a good showing in the first state.

Previously, ads supporting DeSantis have been coming from his super PAC “Never Back Down,” though another new super PAC, “Fight Right, Inc.,” is expected to handle more advertisements going forward. 

The campaign wrapped up their tour of all 99 counties on Saturday, where DeSantis made more pointed criticisms of the former president. 

The campaign’s previous two ads are centered on DeSantis’ biography and record as Florida’s governor, and on Reynolds’ endorsement

Similar ads by other outside groups show former Trump voters criticizing him and expressing the desire for another candidate have been produced by the “Win It Back” PAC, a group associated with the well-funded “Club for Growth” conservative organization. 

In late September, Win It Back released a memo saying that ads that “undermine” Trump’s “conservative credentials on specific issues were ineffective” and backfired. They wrote their best performing ads were of “non-scripted Republicans sharing reservations in their own words” their concerns about Trump’s electability – but not about specific issues such as his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, or on goverment spending. 

Undecided attendees at DeSantis campaign events in Iowa are often split between DeSantis, Trump and Haley. They tend to favor Trump’s policies and experience in the White House, but they also like DeSantis’ youth and believe he is less divisive and more electable, reflecting the argument DeSantis has been making on the trail.

Most Iowa voters CBS News has talked to on the trail at DeSantis events voted for Trump in the 2016 Iowa GOP caucuses and believe he’s still the GOP frontrunner. Some expressed doubt about the size of Trump’s lead, however.

“I don’t think he’s leading on the ground. I think the polls are skewed to the loudest people in the room, and the loudest people are definitely Trump supporters,” said Caleb Grossnickle, a 25-year-old from Ames who is supporting DeSantis over Trump. 

David Walford said he thinks Trump could “do a good job” if elected again, but that he’ll make his final decision “probably when I write it down. But Iowa will most likely vote for either DeSantis or Trump.”