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Leading DeSantis supporters in Florida quickly shift to Trump as governor ends presidential bid

Outspoken Florida supporters of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failed presidential campaign mourned his decision, announced Sunday, to drop out. Many quickly endorsed former President Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination.

“I’m proud of the work that he did,” said state Rep. Chip LaMarca, the only Republican elected official in a partisan office in Broward County. “As he said, there’s not necessarily a path forward for him, so I think he’s doing the right thing.”

“To be honest, I’m disappointed,” said Joe Budd, the elected Republican state committeeman from Palm Beach County.

Both were outspoken supporters of DeSantis’ presidential ambitions — LaMarca from the most Democratic county in the state and Budd from a county in which the vast majority of Republican Party activists were committed to Trump instead of DeSantis.

Exactly a week before DeSantis dropped out, LaMarca and state Rep. Mike Caruso of Palm Beach County were in Iowa, part of a contingent of Florida state lawmakers who traveled to campaign in snowy, sub-zero weather on behalf of the Florida governor before the Midwestern state’s caucuses that, in effect, eliminated any hope DeSantis had at winning the nomination.

“I was rather surprised,” Caruso said about DeSantis’ decision. “I thought he had a good run in Iowa, and I thought that he had a good chance to move on in the election and win some votes. It really came to me as a surprise.”

Caruso said DeSantis dropped out — technically, because of federal campaign spending rules, he “suspended” his campaign like all presidential hopefuls who drop out — too early, citing candidates who didn’t do well in early nominating states and then went on to win the election.

“Even (President Joe) Biden himself. Biden, I think took fifth place in New Hampshire the last time, came back in South Carolina, and went on to win the election,” Caruso said. “There’s so many things that can happen in a presidential election. I would have liked to see him stay in a little longer and give it a run.”

All in for Trump

Budd, Caruso and LaMarca, in phone interviews Sunday afternoon, said they now support Trump for their party’s nomination.

“I’m all in for the president,” Caruso said. “I think he’s poised to take the nomination and move on and be our next president.”

LaMarca said he “absolutely” supports Trump. “I think he has some style differences than I would have myself. But that said, I think the world was a safer place. … I think we need to get back to being a world leader and more importantly get back to taking care of Americans.”

Budd, Caruso and LaMarca weren’t alone in announcing support for Trump.

State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill — a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, one of DeSantis’ leading allies in the Legislature and a prominent supporter of his presidential campaign — issued a statement 31 minutes after the governor posted his video announcement on social media.

Ingoglia lamented the end of the DeSantis campaign and endorsed Trump.

Another prominent Florida DeSantis supporter, state Chief  Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, declared his new allegiance just 16 minutes after the governor dropped out. “Now is time that all republicans unite behind returning @realDonaldTrump to the White House. This is the most important election of our lifetimes,” Patronis posted on social media.

Larry Snowden, president of the Club 47 pro-Trump organization based in Palm Beach County, said he was “very happy” to see DeSantis suspend his campaign and endorse Trump.

“I think it is the right thing for all Republicans to now focus on supporting our great President Trump and help him return to the White House,” Snowden said via text message. “I look forward to seeing our state’s governor, Ron DeSantis come back to Florida and focus on urgent issues in our state such as our homeowners insurance crisis.”

Democrats pleased

Florida Democrats were, to put it mildly, pleased about the DeSantis announcement.

“America did not want what was being sold by @RonDeSantis, and I agree,” state Sen. Shevrin Jones of Miami-Dade County, a member of the Democratic National Committee posted on social media. “You can’t build your campaign on the backs of hate, discrimination, and ‘WOKE’ and expect to win over the country. America just responded and said they DO NOT want to be Florida.”

Nikki Fried, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, said in a statement that DeSantis’ campaign “is a dead, rotten carcass on the side of the road.”

“His ridiculous obsession with the presidency has had real consequences here, from his refusal to address our property insurance and affordability crises to the effects of his made-up culture wars,” she said. The result was “the most predictable place we could imagine: a whimper of an ending.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, posted that DeSantis’ campaign “was over before it even started. Florida is over you too. Don’t come home and hurt Florida more than you already have.”

Not with Trump

Not every South Florida Republican who supported DeSantis rushed to embrace Trump.

State Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman, was among the overwhelming number of Republican state legislators who endorsed DeSantis.

Gossett-Seidman, serving her first term in a Palm Beach County district that is one of the most evenly divided districts in the county, said she was concentrating on issues in the Legislature, not presidential contests.

As for supporting Trump or the other remaining candidate, former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, “I just have to see how it goes…. “I’ll support the nominee.”

Chris Nelson, a Broward-based activist known for frequent social media posts, was an outspoken DeSantis supporter.

“I will NEVER vote Donald Trump again,” Nelson wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I hope he loses BIG TIME. Even worse than last time.”

He said he hopes Haley “kicks Trump’s ass in New Hampshire.”


South Florida DeSantis backers see him as a contender in 2028.

It’s happened before. In the last five decades, Republicans who have lost a nomination and gone on to become president include Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney lost nominating contests and later went on to become the party’s presidential nominees.

“Absolutely I think he should be a candidate in 2028. I don’t know how much bad blood was shed between him and the president. But maybe he’ll be in a position for a vice presidential seat. You never know,” Caruso said.

“He has a wide open set of opportunities in 2028,” LaMarca said.

He and Caruso suggested that DeSantis — who had begun to strongly criticize Trump’s performance in his earlier term in office — could be a Trump vice presidential pick this year, and could run in the future after having served as vice president.

Without Trump on the ballot, Budd said, “Governor DeSantis is to me far above anybody else being a potential nominee in the future. I think that assuming Governor DeSantis would want to pursue 2028 I’m sure he would do well.”

Snowden wasn’t as sure as the DeSantis fans. “There are many factors that I predict will come into play in 2028, Many excellent Republican office holders have surfaced as present supporters of President Trump. I predict that there will be many excellent Republican choices as 2028 Presidential candidates. I just don’t have the vision to predict how it may all play out over the next several years,” he said in a text message.

In 2024, LaMarca said, timing was the key problem for DeSantis. He said the governor should have seized the momentum from his overwhelming 2022 reelection and immediately announced his presidential candidacy.

Budd said rank-and-file Republicans wanted Trump. “I think there’s a mentality in the country of a good majority of Trump supporters that feel he got a raw deal in his presidency, that he got a raw deal in his treatment post presidency, and got a raw deal in the election itself. That they want him to have an opportunity to get back in there and accomplish the things that he’s accomplished all along.”

Budd said it wasn’t a mistake for DeSantis to run in 2024. “It puts him out there. It built his network and built his profile,” he said.

Anthony Man can be reached at moc.lenitnesnus@nama and can be found @browardpolitics on Bluesky, Threads, Facebook and Post.news.

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