President Donald Trump’s strong show of support for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis was on display at a rally Tuesday night at the Florida Fairgrounds in Tampa.
“I’d like to introduce a true leader. A proud veteran. My great friend,” Trump said. “He’s tough. He’s smart and he loves Florida and he loves our country. And he’s going to be your next governor, Ron DeSantis.”
“Welcome to Florida, Mr. President,” DeSantis responded. “It’s a true honor to be standing here endorsed by the president of the United States. I appreciate your support, Mr. President, but I appreciate more the leadership you’re showing for our great country.”
DeSantis praised Trump for leading the U.S. economy to its strongest point in years, standing behind Israel and appointing “strong constitutionalists” to federal court positions. He credited Trump with ending the “disastrous Iran deal,” and standing up to dictatorships in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
“Florida is going in the right direction and we need to continue our success and build upon it,” DeSantis said. “We can’t go back to the days of Charlie Crist where the good old boys run the show.”
DeSantis received a large applause when he said “we can fight illegal immigration, all we’ve got to do is adopt e-verify and end sanctuary cities.”
“So, Mr. President, thanks you for your support, thank you for what you’re doing for the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “I ask for your vote in the August primary.”
The relationship between the president and DeSantis began with this Twitter post from Trump back in December: “Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”
Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2017
Within a month following Trump’s tweet, DeSantis — a little-known Republican congressman from Northeast Florida — announced his candidacy for governor. Early polls showed him trailing the frontrunner Adam Putnam.
Then in June, Trump tweeted again: “Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes – Loves our Military & our Vets. He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!”
Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes – Loves our Military & our Vets. He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2018
The president’s endorsement helped to build momentum for the DeSantis campaign, propelling him into the status as frontrunner, leading Putnam by 12-points and 9-points in two polls released just last week.
DeSantis now appears to have the wind at his back, a testament to the political clout Trump carries with his base in Florida.
Meanwhile, DeSantis’ opponent, Adam Putnam, is fighting for his political survival.
“I know Florida best and I’m focused on putting Florida First. I support the President and I support the President’s agenda, but this is about being Florida’s governor. This is about leading a $1 trillion economy in the third largest state and to do that you need to know Florida,” Putnam said earlier Tuesday at an event with veterans at The Villages.
“I know Florida better than any of the other candidates running,” Putnam added. “I’m confident that there’s an awful lot of Trump-Putnam voters out there who want a governor who actually understands the challenges facing them and puts them first.”
While Gov. Rick Scott did not attend the rally, he went to a round table discussion held earlier at a nearby vocational educational facility. Trump made reference to Scott and his bid to unseat current U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
“I live a lot of time in Florida,” Trump said. “The only time I see Bill Nelson is five months before every election.and after awhile you say, ‘who’s the senator?’….We’ve got to be careful because we’ve got to be sure Rick Scott wins and wins big.”