DeSantis, Trump endorsement fight takes bizarre turn

DeSantis, Trump endorsement fight takes bizarre turn

The endorsement battle between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and former President Donald Trump is reaching a boiling point.

Never Back Down, the main super PAC backing DeSantis for the 2024 Republican presidential nod, rolled out a list of endorsements from more than 50 New Hampshire state lawmakers Tuesday, including four who had previously announced their support for Trump’s 2024 campaign.

One of those legislators, state Rep. Juliet Harvey-Bolia, later told NBC News she was “endorsing both” Trump and DeSantis, explaining that “DeSantis has a lot of promise for the future, and Trump is great now.”

Another state lawmaker, Rep. Lisa Smart, denied throwing her support behind DeSantis, insisting in a statement that she was still backing Trump and accusing Never Back Down of playing “games” with her endorsement.

“I was so incredibly proud to join many of my colleagues in endorsing President Donald J. Trump last month and my support for him has not changed,” Smart said in a statement furnished by the Trump campaign. “I’m dismayed by the games being played by Never Back Down and I will NOT be participating in any activities with Ron DeSantis.”

A spokesperson for Never Back Down pushed back against Smart’s denial, providing a copy of an endorsement pledge form she signed committing her support to DeSantis.

The back-and-forth marked a bizarre escalation of the ongoing proxy war between Trump and DeSantis, who is expected to launch a presidential campaign in the coming weeks. Over the weekend, DeSantis swung through Iowa — the crucial first-in-the-nation caucus state — and Monday, his political operation moved to a new office in Tallahassee.

His aides have also begun inviting top donors and supporters to an event in Miami later this month, signaling he’s close to a presidential announcement.

Endorsements don’t necessarily win primaries or elections, but they’re useful tools for shaping a campaign’s narrative, giving candidates a slate of well-known backers that can vouch for them.

Trump in particular has amassed a long list of congressional Republicans who are supporting his campaign — a list that includes more than half of Florida’s GOP congressional delegation.

DeSantis, meanwhile, has been endorsed by four members of Congress: Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Chip Roy (R-Texas), Bob Good (R-Va.) and Laurel Lee (R-Fla.), who served as DeSantis’s secretary of state before winning her House seat last year.

Yet DeSantis has bolstered his list of supporters in recent days. Ahead of his Iowa visit Saturday, he scored a list of 37 endorsements from Iowa state legislators, including state Senate President Amy Sinclair and House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl.

However, Axios reported Monday that at least three of the people included on his latest list of Iowa supporters hadn’t been consulted by Trump’s team beforehand and were still undecided in the race.

That was followed by Tuesday’s roster of 51 endorsements from New Hampshire state lawmakers, all of whom signed forms committing their support for the governor, according to Never Back Down.

He also notched two more key endorsements Tuesday, with both Florida state Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and state House Speaker Paul Renner throwing their support behind his presidential ambitions.

Those endorsements provided a shot of political momentum for DeSantis at a critical time in his political career.

Despite early polling that shows him trailing well behind Trump in the race for the GOP’s presidential nod, his allies remain optimistic about his chances in key early-voting states such as Iowa, pointing to his long list of endorsements and high favorability numbers.

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