Influential Iowa evangelical leader endorses DeSantis

Influential Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats announced Tuesday that he was officially throwing his support behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2024 GOP primary — a decision that was expected.

“I’m thrilled to throw my personal endorsement and support behind Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida,” Vander Plaats, who serves as the CEO and president of The Family Leader, told Fox News’s Bret Baier.

“The reason it’s not a surprise is that we need to find somebody who can win in 2024. And what we saw in 2022, the supposedly red wave really only happened in Florida and in Iowa,” he explained when pressed by Baier while he decided to formally endorsed the Florida Republican.

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“Gov. DeSantis took a reliable toss-up state in Florida and made it complete red, won by 20 points, won in demographics that we haven’t won in. But he’s also done that by being a bold and courageous leader,” he continued.

Vander Plaats’s endorsement came just two weeks after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) also announced her endorsement of DeSantis.

The Trump campaign mocked the Iowa evangelical leader following his announcement, sending out an email with the subject line misspelling Vander Plaats’s name that read “Bob Vander Plaat$ Endorses A Candidate Who Will Never Be President.”

“Over 150 faith leaders in Iowa are organizing their congregations for President Trump and not a single one demanded nearly $100k like Bob Vander Plaat$ did from Ron DeSanctus. When you are actually the leader of a movement like President Trump is, people are willing to support you for free,” the campaign said in a statement. “Kim Reynolds’ endorsement won’t save Ron DeSanctus, and neither will Vander Plaat$’ endorsement.”

The Trump campaign was referring to a Reuters report from August, citing campaign filings and a report the news outlet had obtained that found that $95,000 had been given to The Family Leader Foundation by DeSantis’s campaign and two pro-DeSantis groups.

Reuters reported that the money ultimately paid for tickets for a July presidential candidate forum, being featured in several pages of advertising in a booklet that was given out at the event, a lunch and an event after dinner.

A RealClearPolitics polling average of Iowa surveys shows DeSantis placing second at 17.3 percent support, behind Trump at 47 percent. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley placed third at 14.3 percent support. An NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom survey released last month showed Haley gaining ground against DeSantis, with the two tied for second place.

The RealClearPolitics polling average of New Hampshire and South Carolina surveys shows Haley polling second behind Trump by a double-digit margin.

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