WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — It has all the elements of a presidential run, but it’s missing one crucial component: an official announcement from Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that he is running for president in 2024.
He was in Iowa Friday — technically to promote his new book — but it did serve as his first appearance in the first state to vote in the GOP presidential contest just 11 months from now.
He spoke to a crowd of more than 1,000 and appeared alongside Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. He touted Florida as a “free state” and highlighted his administration’s response to COVID-19.
“We will never surrender to the woke mob,” he said at the Rhythm City Casino Resort in the eastern Iowa city of Davenport. “Our state is where the woke mob goes to die.”
The White House on Friday dubbed those comments as an argument that lacks policy. “It’s something that turns into hate,” said press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
But that didn’t stop DeSantis from receiving a standing ovation in Iowa — where he is well liked. According to a recent Des Moines Register poll, 75% of Iowa Republicans think favorably of the Florida governor. However, 20% of those polled couldn’t weigh in on how they felt about him.
Despite DeSantis not officially throwing his hat in the ring, The Washington Post reports he has told some close to him that he will run.
On Saturday, DeSantis will head to Nevada, another one of the early states on the primary schedule.
But DeSantis isn’t the only high-profile member of the GOP in Iowa.
Former United Nations ambassador and governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley, who has already announced her intention to run in 2024, was in town on Friday.
Former President Donald Trump, who will be there on Monday, took to his social media platform Truth Social to — once again — trot out his nickname for DeSantis: “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
Trump’s favorability, according to the same Des Moines Register poll, is slightly higher than DeSantis’ at 80%.
In recent weeks, DeSantis’ team has begun holding conversations with a handful of prospective campaign staffers in key states. Late last month, he gathered privately with donors, elected officials and national conservative activists to discuss his views, which include limiting how race and sexuality are taught in schools.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.