Is the battle for Florida lawmakers’ support swinging from Ron DeSantis to Donald Trump?
Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis qualify for the Florida presidential primary ballot. Images via Florida GOP.

Qualifying shots
It would take a lot more flips for the Governor to lose his edge, but he's leaking support ahead of Session.

The hope from Ron DeSantis’ team for months has been that as the campaign progressed, DeSantis would pick off endorsements from Donald Trump. But the story looming over the candidates’ Saturday appearance in Florida was the host of DeSantis supporters transferring allegiance to Trump.

Several state lawmakers joined Trump as he spoke at the Freedom Summit. Some had previously backed the President, like Sen. Ileana Garcia and Rep. Juan Porras. Rep. Randy Fine drew national attention last month when he blamed DeSantis’ inaction for rising antisemitism in the state and switched his support from the Governor to the former President.

But the bulk of lawmakers on stage had announced their support for Trump the day of the event, the first time both men appeared on the same day since each declared candidacy for the Republican nomination for President.

Sen. Debbie Mayfield, the Rules Committee Chair in the Senate and a former DeSantis supporter, stood steps from Trump as he signed qualification paperwork for the Florida Presidential Primary ballot.

Her flip had been reported that morning by The Messenger, as had leaps by Reps. Jessica Baker, Webster Barnaby, Alina Garcia and Kevin Steele. Rep. Paula Stark, another former DeSantis-ite, also appeared in the signing group, and would join Trump on stage shortly after.

“I’ll announce them and I’ll say come on up,” Trump said on stage. As nearly a dozen lawmakers gathered behind him, he embraced each one. “What a nice looking room for me,” Trump said.

Reps. Mike Beltran and David Borrero, lawmakers who resisted a pressure campaign to put their names on a list of 99 DeSantis supporters in the Legislature a day before the Governor announced his run earlier this year, also used the occasion of the Summit to announce their support for the President.

“Members are beginning to see the writing on the wall,” said Porras, a Miami Republican who has rallied support in the House for Trump.

“Donald Trump is going to be our Republican nominee for President in 2024 and no amount of polling and data can prove otherwise at the moment. I was proud to endorse him back in June when he visited the Versailles Restaurant in Miami and I will continue to work to make sure he will be the 47th President of the United States.”

At the Summit, DeSantis waved off reports of state lawmakers flipping their endorsement to Trump.

“This happens in these things,” he said. “We’ve had flips the other way in other states. It’s a dynamic thing. I mean, politicians do what they’re going to do.”

It made national headlines when New Hampshire state Rep. James Spillane publicly switched his endorsement for Trump to DeSantis. “Against my deepest hopes that Trump had learned some measure of control, he has attacked those who have been his staunchest supporters with no regard for their loyalty,” Spillane said in a June statement reported by The Hill.

But losing home state supporters has undermined DeSantis in a different way. The moves happen not only as the Iowa and New Hampshire Primaries draw closer, but as lawmakers already meet in Tallahassee for committee weeks ahead of the Legislative Session. Many viewed the Governor’s long list of legislative endorsements as evidence of the strong control and sense of fear instilled in state Senators and Representatives.

When Sen. Joe Gruters became the first state lawmaker to endorse Trump, a disproportionate list of budget vetoes impacted Gruters’ Sarasota district. But lawmakers quietly say fear of the veto pen has started to wane as more members publicly back Trump.

Sen. Jay Collins, a DeSantis supporter, said he still feels like Florida supports DeSantis, and greeted him warmly.

“The Governor is looking very, very strong right now,” the Tampa Republican said. “I think there was a lot of people if you were in that audience, standing up cheering excited for what’s going on.”

To be sure, DeSantis remains the leader in endorsements among members of the Florida Legislature, even with the recent flips. After the initial rollout, DeSantis’ list of supporters in the Legislature had grown to 100 out of 160 members. It remains at 91 compared to Trump’s 14.

“I would say taking a step back and looking across the country, we’ve got more endorsements from state legislators than any other candidate by far, like going down in Iowa and New Hampshire, all these places,” DeSantis said.

“I think the question is, why would that be the case? And I think a lot of it is they appreciate what we did in Florida. They see me as somebody that represents their principles. But I think that’s also the practical realization that who’s on the top of the ticket matters.”

DeSantis did not bring out every supporter on stage for a photo op, and only spoke for 30 minutes compared to Trump’s 80. But he was surrounded by state supporters when he qualified for the ballot.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo stood at his shoulder, flanked by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez and Attorney General Ashley Moody, the only Florida Cabinet member to yet issue an endorsement. Other state lawmakers, including state Sen. Dennis Baxley and state Reps. Lauren Melo, Toby Overdorf, Alex RizoSpencer Roach and Keith Truenow, filled beyond any photo frame as DeSantis signed his Primary qualifying paperwork.

DeSantis said his political success in Florida helped gain GOP supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature, so lawmakers in the state see value in his leadership.

“In Florida, we had a rising tide that lifted all the boats,” DeSantis said. “A lot of these state legislators in states around the country are concerned about the effect that the top of the ticket could have, and they want it to be positive. So I think that’s why we’ve led the way on those endorsements. I think in Iowa we are like 41, I think the next person has 16 in terms of House and Senate.

“I’m sure there’ll be people that can shift either way in some of these states over the next coming months. But the bottom line is we’ve done very well there.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • PeterH

    November 6, 2023 at 9:30 am

    If Satan was the Republican leading presidential candidate…… Republicans would line up to vote for him.

    Instead of Satan ….. Republicans will willing vote for a twice impeached, four time indicted criminal business fraud.

    • My Take

      November 8, 2023 at 12:46 am

      A scion of Satan.

  • My Take

    November 6, 2023 at 11:24 am

    Clearly showing the complete lack of principle, morality, or true patriotism in today’s GOP.
    DeSSlantis may be loathsome, but not an outright traitor. He may cluelessly assist, bu GG not be in direct employ of Old Scratch.

  • My Take

    November 6, 2023 at 12:11 pm

    What true American could ever vote now for Trump ?

    News about Donald Trump
    >The Daily Beast
    Team Trump Mulling Deploying Military to Streets on Day 1 if Elected: Report
    15 hours ago
    >Washington Post
    Trump and allies plot revenge, Justice Department control in a second term
    1 day ago
    >Business Insider
    Trump outlining plans to use DOJ to probe Barr, Kelly, Milley in a 2nd term

    • JD

      November 6, 2023 at 12:34 pm

      This is the Project 2025 playbook.

      It’s not “conservative”. It’s authoritarian at best, closer to fascist.

      SHUN anyone that is proposing this.

  • Rick Whitaker

    November 6, 2023 at 1:37 pm

    maga cultist have made a pact with satan ( trump )

  • My Take

    November 6, 2023 at 8:53 pm

    What is the MAGA Movement* going to do when Trump loses again?

    *And you know what kind of “movement.”

  • Scott

    November 7, 2023 at 4:30 am

    The answer is no, as the article indicates. That’s why the title of this article is misleading.

    • Biscuit

      November 7, 2023 at 1:49 pm

      Misleading? The title of the article is a question, as indicated by the question mark at the end of the title.
      Is this question misleading you?
      Humans, always complaining.

  • My Take

    November 7, 2023 at 6:28 am

    After he losès, he can as governor save a lot of money by vetoing any nonessential funding for those districts. He’s revenge oriented.

  • My Take

    November 7, 2023 at 5:55 pm

    THIS is the biggest threat:
    >Washington Post
    Trump’s more authoritarian second-term plans
    Trump’s Recipe for a Shockingly Raw Power Grab

  • My Take

    November 7, 2023 at 11:49 pm

    A traitor and a fascist kook.
    A majority of the GOP has simply gone crazy.
    Ànd that’s a charitable interpretation.
    Turncoat would apply to a portion.

Comments are closed.


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