ANKENY, Iowa (AP) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Saturday he would consider Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds as a potential running mate should he win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. out of hand.”
“Of course,” DeSantis said when asked if he would consider running for a second Republican term. “I mean, she’s one of the best civil servants in America.”
Trump last week criticized Reynolds, immensely popular among the state’s GOP base, for her apparently cozy relationship with DeSantis, while declaring her public neutrality as the leading Republican figure in the state to host the first presidential primary in less than six months .
Reynolds has appeared with other GOP White House candidates but moderated talks with DeSantis and his wife Casey DeSantis, while also attending Trump’s first campaign event in Iowa last March.
DeSantis noted that he and Reynolds banter about their similar records and the playful rivalry between the two states, where conservative policies have evolved rapidly this year.
Reynolds was notably greeted with a sustained standing ovation when she appeared Friday at a presidential candidate forum attended by DeSantis and five others and signed a stern abortion ban in front of the audience of about 2,000 Christian conservatives.
“Anyone who’s a Republican trying to belittle her is way off the mark,” DeSantis told reporters, after headlining a fundraiser in the suburb of Des Moines for U.S. Representative Zach Nunn.
On Trump’s social media platform Truth Social, the former president took credit for opening up the governorship to Reynolds, who assumed the role after Republican Governor Terry Branstad became U.S. ambassador to China during the Trump administration.
“Now she wants to stay ‘NEUTRAL,'” Trump wrote, adding that he would not invite her to his campaign events.
Trump will be in Iowa Tuesday to participate in a town hall-style event with Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity.
Elected on his own in 2018 and easily re-elected last year, Reynolds has been named as a potential running mate for 2024, though Iowa GOP insiders have suggested the former rural county senator and treasurer was ambivalent about the role.
DeSantis, who campaigned in Iowa Friday and Saturday, said voters approached him to express their dismay at Trump’s criticism of Reynolds.
It struck a chord with Ryan Frederick, a western Iowa County GOP chairman who attended a rally of about 50 Republican activists Saturday morning at a pizza restaurant in Winterset.
Frederick, leaning towards supporting DeSantis, said, “At least I don’t have to worry about him trashing Kim Reynolds.”
“If you’re partisan, that’s a big problem,” Frederick added.
Later Saturday in Tennessee, DeSantis stood before a hushed audience as he praised his achievements as governor and pledged to provide the United States with a “fresh start” if elected president. Top Republican leaders such as Governor Bill Lee and U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn were conspicuously absent from the state’s annual Republican Party fundraiser — though all three did appear in videos for the event — as DeSantis received only mild applause from Tennessee GOP leaders who have largely already pledged allegiance to Trump.
Still, DeSantis received a partial standing ovation when he praised his administration’s decision to ban classroom teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades and make it easier for parents to challenge books in school libraries.
“We have to draw a line in the sand when it comes to our children,” he said.
DeSantis also referenced his ongoing feud with Disney, which opposed the governor’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“Siding with companies over your own constituency is not going to win an election,” he said.
Associated Press writer Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.