Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is expected to endorse Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president at a rally Monday, a move that might help DeSantis in a critical early nominating state.
The endorsement was first reported by NBC News. Since October, the DeSantis campaign has been focusing the bulk of its resources on Iowa, where it believes it has the best shot of keeping Trump from running away with the nomination.
It’s an about-face for Reynolds, a popular red-state governor who previously said she would stay neutral in the presidential primary, given her position of influence in the state that hosts the first-in-the-nation GOP caucuses. That’s why Iowa governors rarely endorse in presidential primaries.
It’s also a political risk for Reynolds, who might anger Trump’s MAGA base by putting her political stock in DeSantis, a distant second for the nomination.
But Reynolds had offered clues she was leaning toward eventually backing DeSantis, appearing at events with him and helping him campaign across the state ― all while Trump seethed. Trump accused Reynolds of unfairly supporting DeSantis even though Trump had previously backed her for governor, sparking what appeared to be a one-sided feud between Reynolds and Trump.
Trump’s campaign released a scathing statement following the NBC report, citing a poll it claims shows that Reynolds’ endorsement would make no difference in the race. The campaign also took credit for helping Reynolds become governor in 2018. Representatives for Reynolds and DeSantis did not respond to requests for comment.
“Earlier this year, she promised her constituents that she would remain neutral in the race, yet she has completely gone back on that promise,” Trump’s campaign wrote. “President Trump is the undisputed leader of the Republican Party and that’s why he not only leads every single Iowa poll by significant margins but also beats Crooked Joe Biden in the general.”
Trump leads DeSantis in Iowa, nearly 48% to 18%, per FiveThirtyEight. That’s slightly better than DeSantis’ 14% polling average nationally, but not enough to dramatically change the trajectory of the race two months from the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses.
DeSantis has showered Reynolds with praise, calling her one of the nation’s top public servants and saying that he would consider her as his running mate.