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Washington, April 22 – Even as the Republican Party is still weighing in options between former US President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump is wasting no time to oust his rival DeSantis from the race in the 2024 primaries drumming up support for himself on the Governor’s home turf.
Republican Congressman Michael Waltz, who replaced DeSantis in the House, made it clear on Thursday that he won’t be supporting his predecessor’s expected run for the White House. He has endorsed Trump.
The Combat-decorated Green Beret Waltz has virtually waltzed his way to join as many as 11 of the 20-member Florida Republican delegation that has backed Trump.
Trump has also unveiled the endorsements of Representatives Gus Bilirakis and Carlos Gimenez in a fundraising email on Wednesday shaking DeSantis out of his comfort zone.
Waltz, media reports said, has over the years carefully threaded the needle when it comes to Trump, avoiding any criticism of Trump, simultaneously rejecting and voting against policies pushed by his administration. But he announced he was backing Trump in 2024 on Thursday morning.
“We need bold & experienced leadership back in the White House. That’s why I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president,” Waltz tweeted.
Meanwhile, DeSantis reached Washington to network with influential Republicans prior to an expected presidential run, but the former President has methodically racked up endorsements from Florida in a major blow to the Governor’s 2024 prospects.
Trump has pre-empted DeSaantish even before he could get his campaign off the ground, political observers said in their analysis of fast paced political developments. .
“I generally don’t put a lot of weight on endorsements. At the same time though, when your calling card is Florida like it is for Ron, and your folks are defecting in your own backyard, that’s never a good sign,” Ford O’Connell, a Florida-based GOP strategist, said.
It’s quite apparent that Trump’s campaign aimed at knocking out the plank from under DeSantis’s legs before he can be really up and running.
The sole Florida member, Laurel Lee, the governor’s former secretary of state, endorsed DeSantis at his Capitol Hill event this week.
“As Ron DeSantis Secretary of State, I had the honour of witnessing first hand his unparalleled leadership under pressure, his chapter and his commitment to core conservative principles,” Lee said in a statement.
“It was my honour to serve in his administration and it is my honour today to endorse him for president of the US.”
Republican sources claimed Trump is scheduled to host a dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort Thursday night for all Florida Republicans, who have endorsed his White House bid, soon after DeSantis held his reception in Washington, D.C.
Byron Donalds, the closest to DeSantis of any Republican in the House delegation, has literally dropped a bomb over DeSantis while endorsing Trump.
At one stage, the DeSantis loyalist had called him “America’s governor”.
The governor also appointed Donalds’ wife to the Florida Gulf University board of trustees in March 2022.
“It felt like a small little bomb detonated in our state here when some within DeSantis’s operation, not the governor himself, started frantically reaching out to other Florida members who had yet to endorse,” a Republican political strategist said.
While DeSantis’ political strategist Ron Tyson was reaching out to the Florida Republicans for support, most of them were offended.
DeSantis did not approach them directly, even as Trump took the trouble of personally meeting the Florida members to garner support, which he has managed to get, reports said.
When DeSantis was in Congress, he was a loner, with not much of a network with the politicians inWashington D.C.
“I think the way I’d describe Governor DeSantis is transactional. He is only out for himself, and that has rubbed many of my colleagues and myself the wrong way,” a Florida Republican who recently endorsed Trump but desired anonymity.
Aides working with Republicans in the delegation claimed they found it difficult to get the Governor on the phone to discuss key issues in their districts.
A poll from Yahoo News/YouGov, conducted April 14-17, showed Trump leading DeSantis by 16 percentage points (52 per cent to 36 per cent).
But two weeks ago, the former president led DeSantis by 26 percentage points (57 per cent to 31 per cent). A recent University of New Hampshire poll, which found DeSantis leading Trump by 12 points in January, now finds Trump leading DeSantis by 20 points in April, Politico reported.
There are still a number of Florida lawmakers who are keeping their options open such as Representatives Kat Cammack, Maria Elvira Salazar, and Mario Diaz-Balart.
A number of political strategists and consultants in the state are doing the same, The Washington Examiner said.
Some Republicans in the state are alarmed over Trump’s endorsements and wanted members to set aside their personal feelings and assess which of the two candidates is most likely to win the general election in 2024.
Former Representative Francis Rooney, a known Trump critic retired in 2021, said: “Trump cannot win the general election. It’s not going to happen. It didn’t work in the midterms. We had a bunch of defective candidates, election deniers, they didn’t win. What we should have had was a 20-seat majority, and that’s not what happened.”