First on Fox: DeSantis returning to New Hampshire Friday ahead of imminent 2024 announcement

EXCLUSIVE: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will travel to the key early voting primary state of New Hampshire later this week in what appears to be another sign that the popular two-term conservative governor is moving closer to launching a Republican presidential campaign. Fox News has learned that DeSantis on Friday will meet with a large group of Republican lawmakers from the New Hampshire House of Representatives who are backing the governor’s expected White House run. The pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down on Tuesday announced the endorsement list of 51 lawmakers who pledged to support the governor. DeSantis is expected to spotlight how his conservative “Florida blueprint” can be replicated as a model across the country. DeSantis’s trip to the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP presidential nominating calendar is his second in a little more than a month. DeSantis headlined the New Hampshire GOP’s annual fundraising gala on April 14, helping the state party set a record haul. After his address, DeSantis spent over an hour shaking hands, taking photos, and signing copies of his new memoir with the crowd of over 500 top Republican leaders, officials and activists in the Granite State. DESANTIS TO HUDDLE WITH TOP DONORS NEXT WEEK, AS 2024 ANNOUNCEMENT LOOMS Friday’s visit to New Hampshire comes less than a week after the governor crisscrossed Iowa — the state whose caucuses lead off the GOP schedule — helping Hawkeye State Republicans last Saturday raise money at events in the northwestern and eastern parts of the state.  WHO’S IN AND WHO’S ON THE SIDELINES — YOUR GUIDE TO THE 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION RACE After a scheduled rally in Des Moines by former President Donald Trump — who’s currently the overwhelming front-runner in the early Republican nomination race polls as he makes his third straight White House run — was cancelled at the last minute due to severe weather warnings, DeSantis made an unscheduled stop in Iowa’s capital city on Saturday night and spoke with supporters at a barbeque joint just a couple of blocks from where Trump rally would have been. Next week, DeSantis will huddle in Miami, Florida with top financial backers next week, another signal that he’s close to jumping into an increasingly crowded GOP nomination race. The meeting will take place May 24-25 and potentially extend another day, a source who received an invitation told Fox News on Monday. The source added that he was told by DeSantis officials to “block off” those dates “on your calendar.” The DeSantis political confirmed to Fox News that the gathering in Miami is “a pre-briefing for our top supporters.” By law, DeSantis cannot receive or ask for contributions for a presidential campaign unless he has formally declared his candidacy. However, the governor can meet with prospective donors to brief them on his 2024 plans if he does not solicit contributions. FIRST ON FOX: DESANTIS HELPS FELLOW REPUBLICANS HAUL IN $4.3 MILLION  Next week’s meeting with donors appears to be the latest in a series of moves in recent days that indicate the launch of DeSantis’ 2024 presidential campaign is nearing. Among them was the move Monday by DeSantis’ political team from the Republican Party of Florida headquarters — where it has been housed following last November’s gubernatorial election — to new offices.  Another sign was the news, first reported by Fox News on Monday, that Bryan Griffin would be stepping down from his role as press secretary in the governor’s office in order to join the DeSantis political operation. Additionally, a further signal was the governor’s move last Tuesday to sever ties with Friends of Ron DeSantis, his longtime political state committee, in order to comply with federal campaign finance regulations. While the popular two-term conservative governor remains on the 2024 sidelines, he said last week that he will decide “relatively soon” whether he will launch a 2024 GOP presidential campaign. When asked over the weekend during stops in Iowa, the state whose caucuses lead off the GOP presidential nominating calendar, whether a 2024 announcement was near, DeSantis said “no news yet.” However, the governor’s multiple stops in the early voting presidential primary and caucus states since March, along with the expansion of his political team in Tallahassee, appeared to be clear signs that DeSantis was moving toward a 2024 presidential campaign launch. Republican primary polling indicates DeSantis is Trump’s top rival. The governor is firmly in second place in the surveys behind Trump, well ahead of the rest of the pack of actual and likely GOP White House contenders.
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