Florida Governor Ron DeSantis visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday, where he previously served in the House, to socialize with fellow Republicans. Unfortunately, his visit to the nation’s capital did not do much to boost support for his likely presidential run among Republicans in Congress.
Representative Dan Meuser, who was among the roughly 100 people in attendance but is still on the fence about voting for Mr. DeSantis, departed the event with the notion that he was imminently going to make an announcement. “It’s a major choice,” he emphasized. For now, “it’s up to him.” Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas added, “I’m staying out of it.”
While Mr. DeSantis was doing his speech, Texas Representative Lance Gooden issued a statement in which he endorsed Donald J. Trump. “Due diligence was my motivating factor,” Mr. Gooden said in an interview after meeting with Mr. DeSantis at the gathering.
“I love Donald Trump. But I didn’t want to just jump out and endorse him out of loyalty. I made a commitment to myself that I would meet and visit with every serious contender before I made a decision. I chose today and wanted to jump back on the Trump Train.”
Attendees reported that Mr. DeSantis engaged in lengthy chats with any and all members who sought him out. After an appearance in Austin, Texas, Mr. DeSantis will return to Washington, DC, on Friday to speak at a conference hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
There, he will embark on a trade mission abroad, the details of which have not been disclosed by the governor’s office. Planned stops include Tokyo, where he will meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as well as Seoul, Tel Aviv, and London, said those familiar with the trip.
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Mr. Crenshaw stated that Mr. DeSantis spoke primarily about Florida policy during their Tuesday meeting. The Texas lawmaker has been outspoken in his criticism of President Trump’s claims about the 2020 race, but he has maintained that he has no intention of becoming involved.
After six years in the House, Mr. DeSantis decided to run for governor in 2018, but he hasn’t done much to keep in touch with his former colleagues. He has avoided attending National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association meetings in Washington, DC, for the most part for the past few years.
His Tuesday gathering was promoted as a chance to reconnect with old friends, but several of the invited Republicans were actually former coworkers. Representative Darin LaHood (D-IL) is one of those lawmakers who hasn’t yet endorsed Mr. DeSantis.
New —> Trump or DeSantis? Democrats aren't sure who they'd rather see Biden face in 2024
Party strategists disagree on who would be more beatable.
Some maintain it’s Trump… but lately, others think DeSantis would be a weaker general election candidate. https://t.co/bH0XriN8sg
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) April 17, 2023
“Well, Governor DeSantis hasn’t announced that he’s going to run for president — that time will come,” Mr. LaHood said during an interview on Fox News. “Today is just an opportunity again to hear the great success story that Governor DeSantis has had in Florida and for my colleagues to get reacquainted with him.”
The venue was a short stroll from Capitol Hill and roughly three miles from the White House. And To The Republic, a Republican nonprofit founded by Michigan political strategist Tori Sachs, booked the space and have sponsored other recent events for the governor of Florida as he lays the framework for a presidential run.
The thing is that if DeSantis doesn't run in 2024 he'll look like a loser who couldn't survive first contact with scrutiny as a national figure. Perceptions of his electoral competence have declined a lot and he'll lock those perceptions in.https://t.co/5zW7OTWyGd
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 16, 2023
Outside, a group of about two dozen protesters with bullhorns and loudspeakers shouted insults at the gathering. Mr. DeSantis, however, avoided the demonstrators by entering through a back entrance. House Republicans Chip Roy of Texas and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, both of whom have endorsed Mr. DeSantis for president, helped organize the gathering.
On Tuesday, before the meet-and-greet, Mr. DeSantis received the endorsement of a third House member, Florida’s Representative Laurel Lee. As of today, 45 members of the House of Representatives have endorsed Mr. Trump, the frontrunner who launched his campaign five months ago. This includes seven members from Florida’s delegation.
Three of those Florida Republican endorsements were publicized by Mr. Trump’s staff in the 24 hours before Mr. DeSantis’ arrival in Washington: Brian Mast, John Rutherford, and Greg Stuebe. Colorado Republican Representative Ken Buck attended the gathering on Tuesday, although he stressed that his attendance in no way constituted an endorsement of any candidate.
During their time on the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Buck and Mr. DeSantis sat next to one other, and Mr. Buck said he was “happy to be supportive in a general way.”
“Most of us who are attending are not publicly supporting him — I have gone to events for others and will continue to do that,” Mr. Buck said. “It’s just an opportunity for Ron to be in town and maybe raise his profile a little bit.”
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