TALLAHASSEE — GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis told Republican activists on Monday night that President Donald Trump is coming to Florida to do an event for his campaign. But when pressed Tuesday for more details, his campaign declined to discuss the president‘s planned visit.
“I think the President’s going to come down for me very soon. Which will be very good,” DeSantis said to cheers before a gathering of the Polo Republican Club in Palm Beach County, according to audio obtained by POLITICO.
DeSantis’ campaign adviser Brad Herold said “no” when asked Tuesday if he could provide further information.
"We’re proud to have the President’s endorsement and we look forward to him coming to Florida during the campaign," he said.
The Trump endorsement has been the subject of political jockeying in Florida’s Republican gubernatorial primary. In late December, Trump tweeted out to his nearly 50 million followers that DeSantis would “would make a GREAT Governor of Florida.” Two weeks later, DeSantis entered the race.
Trump has since been quiet on Florida’s governor’s race, but those close to the president say that privately he has told people that he plans to help DeSantis.
“That would not surprise me,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of Trump’s closest congressional allies, of a possible DeSantis-Trump event. “When I’ve been with POTUS, he’s said he wants to help him."
Gaetz is a Republican who previously represented a conservative panhandle Florida House seat. He was in the House under Republican Speaker Richard Corcoran, who Gaetz said he will support if he gets in the governor’s contest. Corcoran is widely expected to join the race.
Despite Trump’s Twitter praise, other Republican candidates and likely candidates have continued to tether themselves to Trump, who remains very popular with Florida GOP primary voters.
“This is what leadership looks like. Since Congress continues to ignore the voters and refuses to build the wall, our commander-in-chief @realdonaldtrump is right to step up and do what is necessary to secure our border!” Corcoran tweeted.
Along with those public overtures, his political committee hired Tony Fabrizio, the GOP pollster who worked with Trump’s campaign, and Roger Stone, a notorious Trump political adviser, who met with Corcoran during a February trip to Tallahassee. Stone has not publicly endorsed, but has been publicly defending Corcoran, including trying to raise questions about Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis.
In March, Stone said that DeSantis’ support of Trump in 2016 was “late and tepid,” and pointed out that Donald Trump Jr. brought Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the gubernatorial race’s early front-runner, as his guest to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach County.
“So, one has to ask when the president tweeted about DeSantis, was that an endorsement, or was that just warm words of encouragement,” Stone said on InfoWars, a far-right news site.
Beyond the visit to Mar-a-Lago, which Trump has dubbed the "Winter White House," Putnam has also worked to publicly align himself with Trump.
His campaign tweeted out a picture of him and Trump Jr. at Mar-a-Lago, a moment that was overshadowed by the fact that it also inadvertently included former Rep. Mark Foley, a Palm Beach Republican who resigned in disgrace from Congress after sending sexually explicit message to boys serving as congressional pages.
Putnam, who continues to hold a large fundraising advantage, built an early campaign around Trump, blasting out messages used to build his internal campaign email list that said things such as “Sign up if you stand with President Trump!”