December 5, 2023
Florida Republicans Show They Like DeSantis—But Love Trump - The Thinking Conservative
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Former President Donald Trump snags seven more Florida endorsements, including five who switched from Gov. Ron DeSantis; audience boos Trump critics.

KISSIMMEE, Fla.–The Florida Freedom Summit presented a chance for the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, to shine. And he did.

Former President Donald Trump still commanded the biggest spotlight among speakers at the state Republican Party’s daylong event on Nov. 4.

Although the audience of 1,500 people treated the governor to numerous rounds of cheering and applause, the crowd reacted more intensely for the former president.

Chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” echoed in the ballroom at the Gaylord Palms Resort here. At times, the audience laughed heartily at the former president’s jokes but turned stone silent when he spoke of the threat of nuclear war and the nation’s immigration, economic, and social ills.  No comparable responses happened during Mr. DeSantis’s speech.

The summit marked the first time that these two GOP rivals shared the same stage in their home state while vying for their party’s presidential nomination.

President Trump seized the opportunity to mark Florida as his territory. He flaunted seven additional endorsements from Florida politicians, including five state representatives who had defected from Mr. DeSantis’s corner: Jessica Baker, Webster Barnaby, Alina Garcia, and Kevin Steele.

Two new endorsers are state representatives Mike Beltran and David Borrero, according to an article from The Messenger posted on President Trump’s campaign website.

Onstage, President Trump also pointed out that the Nov. 2 endorsement from U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) was key, along with one from Florida Rep. Randy Fine.

As endorsers clustered around him onstage, the former president stood in front of lighted signage proclaiming, “Florida is Trump Country.”

Similar signs are fixtures at Trump rallies. But those words seemed to sting when displayed in the state where Mr. DeSantis serves as the state’s chief executive.

Likewise, while the governor spoke, some signs declared, “Florida is DeSantis Country.”

Endorsements and Loyalty

When reporters asked Mr. DeSantis about the state lawmakers who “flipped” and endorsed President Trump over him, the governor said, “We’ve had ‘flips’ the other way, in other states. It’s a dynamic thing.”

By Janice Hisle and T.J. Muscaro

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