Five Republican legislators in Florida have switched their endorsements from rightwing governor to former US president ahead of a key party nomination debate in Miami next week.
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The move is another boost to Trump – who remains dominant in the 2024 Republican race – and a blow to DeSantis, whose once highly anticipated bid for the White House has recently floundered badly.
The five DeSantis defectors – out a total of seven new Trump endorsements in Florida – was first reported Saturday by the Messenger. DeSantis’s national favorability polling has now slid for most of 2023, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Four Republican candidates, including DeSantis, have qualified for the third Republican TV debate in Miami on Wednesday. But Trump, who is skipping it, plans a same-day rally in the state. Trump’s frontrunning campaign has called for all future debates to be canceled so the party can “refocus its manpower and money” on defeating Democrats next year.
Joe Biden’s re-election campaign, too, plans to use the debate for counter-programming, including placing billboards around Trump’s Hialeah event warning of the “Florida blueprint brought to you by Maga Republicans”.
Trump’s seven endorsements, revealed at Florida Republicans’ “freedom summit” on Saturday, come after Senator Rick Scott announced his decision to back Trump on Thursday, and 10 days after Florida representative Randy Fine switched horses from DeSantis to Trump.
The Florida governor now counts 93 Florida legislator endorsements from his home state, down from 99 in May. According to the Messenger, some are only sticking around “because they don’t want their bills or hometown spending projects vetoed”.
Legislators who have made the switch to Trump include state congresswoman Jessica Baker, who said in statement that her constituents cited world instability and economic insecurity for wanting see “Trump back in the White House and Gov Ron DeSantis back on the job here in Florida”.
Florida state senator Debbie Mayfield, who also switched, said it was “time to unite our party” behind Trump.