December 10, 2023

(Bloomberg) — Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is signaling she is likely to endorse Ron DeSantis for president, a move that would give him the support of a popular conservative leader as he looks to close the gap against frontrunner Donald Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

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The endorsement is not finalized, according to people briefed who spoke on condition of anonymity. Reynolds’s backing could come as early as November, two of the people said. The Iowa caucus, the first in the GOP primary calendar, is scheduled for January.

She wants the crowded Republican field to winnow and give Iowans more opportunities to see the candidates in-person, the people said.

Reynolds has so far remained neutral in the GOP primary but has made several moves recently that demonstrate a preference for DeSantis over Trump. Earlier this month, the pair sat together at the University of Iowa versus Iowa State football game and posed for photos, as Trump sat in a box above their seats and was booed by some in the crowd.

The Iowa governor has also been critical of Trump’s recent comments that Florida’s six-week abortion ban, which DeSantis as governor signed, is “a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.” Reynolds posted on the social media site X, formerly Twitter, that “It’s never a ‘terrible thing’ to protect innocent life.” Reynolds also signed a six-week abortion ban for Iowa earlier this year.

“The governor’s stance hasn’t changed. She has made no decisions, and she is remaining neutral at this time,” said Kollin Crompton, a spokesman for Reynolds.

Andrew Romeo, a DeSantis spokesman, said claims Reynolds is leaning toward endorsing the Florida governor are “completely false.”

“Ron DeSantis has a fantastic relationship with Governor Reynolds and is grateful for how she has welcomed him to her state on numerous occasions throughout the campaign,” Romeo said in a statement.

Polls show DeSantis trailing Trump in Iowa by over 34 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls, but a Reynolds endorsement would boost his chances of pulling off an upset in the state.

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