Longtime Florida Governor Rick Scott is a Trump loyalist, but he must step down as his term limit nears. Now, a Florida Congressman in the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Ron DeSantis, has emerged as a favorite to replace him.
While Scott mulls a Senate run in 2018, DeSantis is looking forward to dealing with state politics. And now, after President Trump tweeted his tacit support, it appears that several high profile, wealthy, and influential Republican donors are following Trump’s lead and backing DeSantis, too. This could change the dynamics of the race, making him an automatic favorite.
“This sets DeSantis apart from the rest. He will have the financial resources and the ground game and the Trump base to be an incredible statewide candidate,” said David Bossie, a longtime DeSantis and Trump supporter who recently published a book called, “Let Trump Be Trump.”
“These big national finance givers are true believers. Donors like Adelson care about Israel, and they watched DeSantis fight for what they care about,” the fundraiser said. “They see him consistently boosting Trump on Fox. So here they have a prominent national congressman who speaks their language, pushes their issue and defends their president.”
However, the Adelsons said in a statement that “there is no decision on the level of financial support” for DeSantis but that they “appreciate and have great respect for the leadership of Congressman Ron DeSantis on numerous issues.”
DeSantis, 39, has an Ivy League education and experience as a military lawyer before running for Congress. “I’m a believer that career politicians looking for the next rung on the ladder are a thing of the past,” Bossie said. “When you look at that and you compare it to the president of the United States tweeting about Ron, his hard work and his service in the military, he is a game-changing candidate.”
The previous GOP front runner was Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. A Putnam spokeswoman tried to downplay the financial developments, saying, “I’m hardly concerned about a Washington insider jumping into his second statewide race in two years in desperate search of a promotion. He’s not competition, just a stark contrast to Adam Putnam.”
Notably, the most influential Republican donors – the Koch brothers – have not yet weighed into the Florida gubernatorial race. Their donations could sway the balance of power back towards Putnam, though it remains to be seen who they will support.
“It’s as impressive a national donor list as I’ve seen,” added a seasoned Florida financier, lobbyist Brian Ballard said. “The question for Ron is, can he motivate them to get off the list and on to raising and giving considerable dollars? If he does, it will be a huge win for him. If not, it won’t be enough to catch Adam Putnam.”