Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will be in Iowa on Friday to introduce himself to an expectant audience Republicansmaking a long-awaited visit ahead of a likely 2024 presidential bid.
DeSantis’ planned appearances in Davenport and Des Moines mark his first trip to a poll-leading state and come in anticipation of an expected White House campaign. With the Iowa caucuses less than a year away, state Republicans are poised to take a closer look at DeSantis, a high-profile presidential prospect seen as a rival to the former president. Donald Trump.
“A lot of people are excited about DeSantis — people I talk to. There were so many conversations. The expectations for him are really high,” said Emma Aquino-Nemechek, an eastern Iowa Republican committeewoman who is curious about DeSantis but has deep loyalty to Trump.
DeSantis is scheduled to appear with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Friday morning in Davenport and evening in Des Moines to promote his new book, “The Courage to Be Free,” which was released last week.
The book’s subtitle, “Florida’s Blueprint for Reviving America,” offers DeSantis an opportunity to test the national message with a Republican audience, crucial to the early stages of a GOP nomination campaign.
“We challenged the experts. We defeated the elites. We ignored the chatter. We did it our way, the Florida way,” DeSantis told Florida lawmakers Tuesday in the State of the State address in Tallahassee. “And as a result, we are the No. 1 destination for our fellow Americans looking for a better life.”
DeSantis is also expected to visit the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines between public events to meet with a small contingent of Republican lawmakers.
DeSantis’ visit coincides with a trip to the state by former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who announced her 2024 candidacy last month. Trump is scheduled to make a campaign stop in Iowa on Monday, his first visit to the state since his third presidential bid.
As presidential candidates campaigned in Iowa in last year’s midterm elections, activists like Nemechek regularly cited DeSantis as someone they’d like to see run, especially since he’s become a frequent national voice on Fox News on conservative culture battles. .
DeSantis has begun looking beyond Florida, where his attention was focused last year before his landslide re-election victory over Democrat Charlie Crist and expanding the Republican majority in the Florida Legislature.
In recent weeks, his team has begun internal conversations with a handful of potential company hires in key states. Late last month, he met privately with donors, elected officials and national conservative activists to discuss his vision, which includes limiting the teaching of race and sexuality in schools.
DeSantis is expected to announce his candidacy in late spring or early summer, after the Florida Legislature ends in mid-May.
The anticipation is reminiscent, to some extent, of the clamor for George W. Bush in Iowa in the run-up to the 2000 election, though with significant differences, said veteran Iowa Republican Party activist David Amann.
DeSantis is seen, like Bush, as the next-generation Republican governor of a big state who won re-election decisively, said Amann, who was one of the Iowa Republicans trying to recruit Bush to run.
Bush swept into Iowa to great fanfare in June 1999 and swept the Iowa caucuses the following year en route to the 2000 GOP nomination and the White House. Notably, Bush enjoyed the hands-on campaigning in Iowa of his father, former President George W. Bush, with whom he forged a strong relationship during his caucuses in Iowa in 1980 and 1988.
“There is another former president in this cycle. Only he is not interested in helping a first-time candidate,” Amman said, referring to Trump. “W was the overwhelming favorite in Iowa. I believe that there is no overwhelming favorite this time.”
On Friday, Haley will wrap up his second trip to Iowa as a candidate with stops in the western and central parts of the state. Trump will stop in Davenport, where DeSantis first appeared.
“Because his name had been around for a while, people were looking forward to Governor DeSantis’ first visit,” said Janita McNulty, GOP chairwoman for Scott County, where Davenport is located. “But the activists are very happy for both Governor DeSantis and President Trump, very happy that they’re both coming.”