Ron DeSantis makes first trip to Iowa as he flirts with a 2024 presidential run

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida did not mention plans to run for the White House during his first stop in Iowa on Friday morning. However, Florida’s popular conservative governor did not have to. Just by traveling to Iowa, the state that holds the first contest in the GOP presidential nominating calendar, DeSantis turned up the volume on speculation he will likely launch a 2024 campaign later this year. DeSantis, during a very well received speech to a crowded gathering in the southeastern Iowa city of Davenport, spotlighted his conservative policy accomplishments in Florida. The governor touted his culture wars crusade, reiterating “in the state of Florida we will fight the woke in the legislature. We will fight the woke in education. We will fight the woke in the businesses. We will never every surrender to the woke mob. Our state is where woke goes to die.” DESANTIS MOVES TOWARDS INCREASINGLY LIKELY 2024 PRESIDENTIAL BID Florida’s 44-year-old governor saw his popularity soar among conservatives across the country over the past three years due to his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a culture warrior going after media, corporations and teachers’ unions. The governor won an overwhelming 19-point gubernatorial re-election victory in November. In recent speeches, he has been spotlighting that his policy victories in Florida can serve as a roadmap for the entire nation. TRUMP AND DESANTIS NECK AND NECK IN NEW POLL IN STATE THAT KICKS OFF 2024 GOP CALENDAR Sources in DeSantis’ wider orbit have said any presidential campaign launch would come in the late spring or early summer, after the end of the current legislative session.  However, the governor’s latest travel itinerary is sparking more speculation about an increasingly probable White House run. After the high-profile visit to Iowa, he heads to Nevada on Saturday, which votes fourth in the GOP presidential nominating calendar. Additionally, sources have told Fox News that stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina, which hold the second and third contests in the GOP presidential nominating calendar, are likely in the coming weeks. Additionally, on the eve of his first trip ever to Iowa, the Washington Post — citing two sources familiar with his comments — reported that DeSantis had described his plans to run for president without adding any caveats, which would suggest he is still deciding on whether to launch a campaign. The trip to Iowa comes days after the start of Florida’s legislative session, where DeSantis aims to chalk up more conservative victories, thanks in part to a newly elected GOP supermajority in Tallahassee. It also comes as he travels across the country highlighting his “Florida blueprint” and promoting his newly released memoir, “The Courage to Be Free.” DeSantis touted on Friday that, “I’m proud to say this is the number one best-selling non-fiction book in the country. There’s a lot of people who are very annoyed with that fact.” DESANTIS AIMING FOR MORE CONSERVATIVE VICTORIES IN FLORIDA WHILE HITTING TRAIL ACROSS COUNTRY When asked about his 2024 timeline last week on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” DeSantis pointed to the upcoming legislative session and his book tour and said, “Those are what we’re going to be doing over these next few months. As we get beyond that, then we can decide from there.” Early polling in the GOP nomination race indicates DeSantis trailing only former President Trump, and far ahead of the rest of the actual and likely other potential 2024 Republican White House rivals. The governor’s Iowa trip comes just ahead of Trump’s return to the state on Monday. Trump, in his first visit to Iowa this cycle, is expected to discuss politics and policy -with an emphasis on education at an event in Davenport. Trump has pulled a page from his political playbook in recent months as he has increasingly criticized DeSantis on a host of issues, including slamming the governor’s early actions during the coronavirus pandemic. FORMER TOP TRUMP OFFICIAL LAUNCHES PRO-DESANTIS SUPER PAC However, on Friday, DeSantis showcased his record, saying “during COVID, the world lost its mind when commonsense suddenly became an uncommon virtue. The state of Florida stood as a refuge of sanity. We were a citadel of freedom for people all over this country.”  DeSantis also showcased his efforts to secure the nation’s southern border and criticized President Biden’s efforts in the border security crisis. Vowing to send Florida officials to the southern border to build a wall, the governor said “just put me in coach. Come on Joe – let us get it done. We’ll do it.” DeSantis was introduced in Davenport by popular Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Similar to DeSantis, Reynolds narrowly won election in 2018 before cruising to an overwhelming re-election last November. “While this last election wasn’t what we had hoped for nationally, Florida and Iowa had a big old red wave,” Reynolds said. WHO’S IN AND WHO’S ON THE SIDELINES – YOU’RE GUIDE TO THE 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION RACE DeSantis, potentially trying to curry favor, repeatedly complemented Reynolds and Iowa Republicans. “It’s so great to be here with America’s governor — Kim Reynolds,” he said. “When I meet Iowans in Florida, they’re happy. They love their state because it’s well run. It’s one of the best run states in the country. It’s because you’ve got a great governor. It’s because you’ve got a lot of great people in the legislature.” DeSantis was scheduled to team up with Reynolds later Friday at a similar event in Des Moines and was also set to greet Republican state lawmakers at the state capitol. Florida’s governor, while enjoying strong poll numbers, has been criticized for a lack of retail campaigning skills. However, following the Davenport event, DeSantis spent nearly half an hour shaking hands with members of the audience, and taking selfies and autographing his memoir. “I know there’s a lot of pent-up for DeSantis in Iowa, like I think there is in a lot of other states,” longtime Republican consultant David Kochel told Fox News. Kochel, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns in Iowa and nationally, said “I think Iowans are going to keep their minds up and keep their powder dry until they see these candidates and I think DeSantis is top on the list of who they want to see and hear from.” DeSantis’ visit came as former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – who launched her GOP presidential campaign last month – wrapped up three straight days of campaigning in Iowa.
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