DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds plans to endorse Ron DeSantis for president, giving the Florida governor’s 2024 campaign a boost as he struggles to show progress against Donald Trump in the Republican primary, two people familiar with the matter said Sunday.
DeSantis has pinned his chances of emerging as an alternative to Trump alternative squarely on Iowa. Reynolds is well-liked within the GOP and will break with long-standing Iowa tradition to endorse DeSantis. Iowa’s governor typically stays neutral before the caucuses that kick off the Republicans’ nomination calendar in January.
The people familiar with the matter spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity before a Monday rally in Des Moines where Reynolds is expected to announce her endorsement. The Des Moines Register and NBC News first reported the anticipated endorsement.
Reynolds had introduced DeSantis at political events in Iowa and appeared with Florida first lady Casey DeSantis — without publicly declaring her support. But the governor often noted her shared policy priorities and accomplishments, including a bill banning abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
Reynolds, who is in her second term, had left open the possibility of lending her support to a candidate in the Jan. 15 caucuses.
She had introduced Trump at an event in March. But Trump has accused her of disloyalty for weighing an endorsement before the caucuses and tried to take credit for her winning the governorship.
His campaign quickly criticized her on Sunday.
“Kim Reynolds apparently has begun her retirement tour early as she clearly does not have any ambition for higher office,” the Trump campaign said in an emailed statement. “Earlier this year, she promised her constituents that she would remain neutral in the race, yet she has completely gone back on that promise. Regardless, her endorsement will not make any difference in this race.”
Trump also weighed in in a series of angry social media posts, accusing her of disloyalty and reneging on her pledge to remain neutral.
“If and when Kim Reynolds of Iowa endorses Ron DeSanctimonious, who is absolutely dying in the polls both in Iowa and Nationwide, it will be the end of her political career in that MAGA would never support her again, just as MAGA will never support DeSanctimonious again,” he wrote. “Two extremely disloyal people getting together is, however, a very beautiful thing to watch. They can now remain loyal to each other because nobody else wants them!!!”
Trump is the heavy favorite to win in Iowa. DeSantis is competing with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to emerge in the leadoff contest, just 10 weeks away, as a viable alternative to Trump.
A month ago, DeSantis sent about 20 of his Tallahassee-based campaign headquarters staff to Iowa. The super political action committee supporting him, Never Back Down, has had roughly two dozen staff reaching out to would-be caucus participants since the summer.
On Friday, DeSantis spoke to about 50 GOP activists at a early-afternoon stop in Denison, the heart of Republican-heavy Crawford County. It was the 86th Iowa county he’s visited, on a mission to visit each of its 99, and the last puzzle piece in the bloc of conservative western Iowa.
Reynolds is popular within the party in part for signing a school choice bill and strict abortion ban this year.
AP National Political Writer Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.