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DeSantis struggling to generate support among GOP lawmakers as Trump surges in GOP primary polls

DeSantis had been regarded by many as a potential threat to Trump's bid for a second term in the White House.

Published: April 21, 2023 11:07pm

Updated: April 21, 2023 11:10pm

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appears to be struggling to generate support among Republican lawmakers for his possible presidential run as former President Trump surges in 2024 GOP primary polls.

A new Wall Street Journal poll out Friday shows Trump with a 13% lead in a hypothetical GOP presidential primary contest.

In December, DeSantis had a 14% lead over Trump in a Wall Street Journal poll in a test GOP primary battle.

On Tuesday, while the Florida Legislature was in session, DeSantis visited Washington, D.C., for a meet-and-greet with GOP members of Congress at the Heritage Foundation. The event was sponsored by the organization And to the Republic (ATTR). 

DeSantis' political team reportedly had asked members of the Florida congressional delegation to withhold their 2024 endorsements. The Florida governor and former congressman has not formally entered the GOP presidential primary.

Following the meet-and-greet with DeSantis, some of the Republican lawmakers who attended met for dinner at a nearby steakhouse.

Just the News asked Florida GOP Rep. Maria Salazar how the meeting with DeSantis went, but she declined to comment. Salazar hasn't endorsed a GOP candidate for president yet.

Other GOP lawmakers Just the News spoke with at the restaurant said they did not attend the event with DeSantis.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy declined to comment on DeSantis' outreach in Washington, D.C. or whether he would like to see the Florida governor enter the GOP presidential race. 

Trump held a dinner on Thursday evening for Florida Republicans, including GOP Rep. and former Mayor of Miami Carlos Gimenez, first-term GOP Rep. Cory Mills, and first-term GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna.

Members of the Florida congressional delegation who have publicly endorsed Trump for a second term include Rep. Byron Donalds, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Greg Steube, Rep. John Rutherford and Rep. Brian Mast.

Gimenez formally endorsed Trump over DeSantis on Friday.

"Under Joe Biden, America is less safe, less prosperous, and less free," Gimenez said in a statement. "I am proud to endorse President Donald J. Trump to serve as our next Commander-In-Chief to fight socialism both at home and abroad, rebuild our economy, and to secure and protect our nation so that America continues being the freest, most exceptional country in the history of the world."

Florida GOP Rep. Laurel Lee is so far the only member of the Florida congressional delegation to endorse DeSantis.

To date, Trump has picked up endorsements from half of Florida's congressional delegation and about 50 members of Congress in total.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has applauded DeSantis' job performance but stopped short of endorsing him. Bush had said DeSantis has a "proven track record" and would be a "great alternative" to Trump.

Trump, who defeated Bush in the 2016 GOP primary, has been trying to link DeSantis to Bush, a strategy that will likely continue as long as DeSantis is a potential 2024 rival.

"Fox News is promoting Ron DeSanctus so hard and so much that there's not much time left for Real News," Trump wrote in a social media post in February. "Reminds me of 2016 when they were pushing 'JEB!'"