DeSantis mingles with congressional Republicans as Trump expands his endorsement lead in 2024 race

A source in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political orbit tells Fox News he wouldn’t be surprised if up to 30-40 Republican members of Congress stop by a reception being headlined by the conservative two-term Florida governor late Tuesday afternoon and evening in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington D.C. The “meet-and-greet policy discussion” gathering is being hosted by And to the Republic, a recently formed nonprofit group that organized the Florida governor’s February events in New York City and suburban Philadelphia and Chicago that supported law enforcement. And the DC mixer is taking place at a Heritage Foundation townhouse on Capitol Hill. Heritage is one of the oldest and most influential think tanks in the conservative movement. The source told Fox News that DeSantis, who has rarely returned to the nation’s capital since he left Congress in 2018 amid his successful gubernatorial campaign, came back this week to say hello to old colleagues and friends, and because of the interest among congressional Republicans in the conservative legislative victories by DeSantis and GOP state lawmakers. The source added that the governor wanted “to thank these guys for holding the line against [President] Biden and encouraging them to keep doing it.” PROTEST BRIEFLY INTERRUPTS DESANTIS SPEECH IN KEY PRIMARY STATE Among the small group of Republican House members and senators who were co-hosting the event or expected to attend were Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), and Chip Roy (R-Texas), the only two members of Congress who have endorsed the Florida governor’s anticipated presidential run. While he currently remains on the 2024 sidelines, DeSantis is expected to launch a presidential campaign after next month’s conclusion of the Florida legislative session. Sources in DeSantis political orbit for months have told Fox News that a declaration of candidacy by the governor in the White House race – should it happen – would occur likely in late May or June, after state government legislative business in Tallahassee quiets down.  WHO’S IN AND WHO’S ON THE SIDELINES — YOUR GUIDE TO THE 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION RACE Meanwhile, in the past couple of months, DeSantis has slowly started to build up his political operation. And a pro-DeSantis super PAC named Never Back Down – which sources say will be the main outside vehicle helping an expected DeSantis 2024 campaign – was formed in March and over the past month has dramatically beefed up its staff with top Republican operatives and communications. Never Back Down is now trading fire with MAGA Inc., the top super PAC supporter former President Donald Trump’s third White House bid. The former president and his allies – who view DeSantis as Trump’s top threat to capturing the GOP presidential nomination – have been targeting DeSantis since last autumn, but have picked up the pace of attacks the past couple of months. The DeSantis trip to DC – he’ll return to the DC area to headline the Friday morning session of Heritage’s leadership summit, which is being held at National Harbor – comes a day after Rep. Greg Steube became the sixth GOP House member from Florida to endorse Trump, who’s also a Sunshine State resident. Trump’s presidential campaign in November was followed by only a trickle of endorsements from Republican members of Congress.  But as Trump’s position as the clear front-runner in the burgeoning Republican presidential nomination race has become more pronounced this spring, the pace of congressional endorsements has accelerated. Trump – as of Tuesday – could boast the backing of nine senators and 45 House members. 
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