ANKENY, Iowa (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday he would consider Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds as a potential running mate, should he win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and dismissed former President Donald Trump’s recent complaints about her as “totally out of hand.”
“Of course,” DeSantis said when asked whether he would consider the second-term Republican. “I mean, she’s one of the top public servants in America.”
Trump last week criticized Reynolds, immensely popular among the state’s GOP base, for her seemingly cozy relationship with DeSantis while stating her public neutrality as the lead Republican figure in the state that hosts the lead-off presidential caucuses in less than six months.
Reynolds has appeared with other GOP White House prospects, but has moderated conversations with DeSantis and his wife Casey DeSantis, while also attending Trump’s first campaign event in Iowa last March.
DeSantis noted that he and Reynolds banter over their similar records, and the playful rivalry between the two states, where conservative policy has moved swiftly this year.
Notably, Reynolds was greeted with a sustained standing ovation when she appeared at a presidential candidate forum Friday, attended by DeSantis and five others, and signed a strict abortion ban before the audience of roughly 2,000 Christian conservatives.
“Anybody who is a Republican who is trying to denigrate her is way off base on that,” DeSantis told reporters, after headlining a fundraiser in suburban Des Moines for U.S. Rep. Zach Nunn.
On Trump’s social media platform Truth Social, the former president took credit for opening the governorship to Reynolds, who stepped into the role after Republican Gov. Terry Branstad became U.S. ambassador to China during the Trump administration.
“Now, she wants to remain ‘NEUTRAL.’” Trump wrote, adding he would not invite her to his campaign events.
Trump is scheduled to be in Iowa Tuesday to participate in a town hall-style event with Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity.
Reynolds, elected in her own right in 2018 and easily reelected last year, has been mentioned as a potential 2024 running mate, though Iowa GOP insiders have suggested the former state senator and rural county treasurer has been ambivalent about the role.
DeSantis, who campaigned in Iowa Friday and Saturday, said voters approached him to express dismay at Trump’s criticism of Reynolds.
It struck a chord with Ryan Frederick, a western Iowa county GOP chairman who attended a gathering of about 50 Republican activists at a pizza restaurant in Winterset Saturday morning.
Frederick, who is leaning toward supporting DeSantis said, “At least, I don’t have to worry about him trashing Kim Reynolds.”
“If you’re a party loyalist, that’s a big deal,” Frederick added.
Later Saturday in Tennessee, DeSantis faced a muted audience as he touted his accomplishments as governor and promised to offer the United States a “fresh start” should he be elected president. Top Republican leaders like Gov. Bill Lee, and U.S. Sens. Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn were noticeably absent during the state Republican party’s annual fundraiser — though all three did appear in videos for the event — as DeSantis attracted only mild applause from Tennessee GOP leaders that have largely already pledged their allegiance to Trump.
Yet DeSantis received a partial standing ovation when praising his administration’s decision to forbid classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades and making it easier for parents to challenge books in school libraries.
“We have to draw a line in the sand when it comes to our children,” he said.
DeSantis also referenced his ongoing feud with Disney, which opposed the governor’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“Siding with corporations over your own constituency is not going to win elections,” he said.
Associated Press writer Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.