Trump plots to embarrass DeSantis by flipping his endorsements

Donald Trump and his allies are attempting to win over influential Florida Republicans who previously endorsed Governor Ron DeSantis.

Two people told NBC News that as many as six GOP lawmakers from the Sunshine State could flip from Mr DeSantis to the former president as soon as next week.

The scheme is planned to come to fruition amid the Florida Freedom Summit set to take place on Saturday, which will be attended by all the major GOP presidential candidates.

The goal is for Florida lawmakers on the state level to come out for Mr Trump next week – the third GOP primary debate is set to take place on Wednesday in Miami but Mr Trump has indicated that he will not take part.

“It’s coming,” one person told NBC. “Exact number not yet said, but it will be close to 10.”

A Florida GOP lobbyist with knowledge but who is not involved in the effort told the network that he expects “at least five” people to go from the governor to the former president.

“There is no doubt that there are more coming next week,” he told the outlet. Mr Trump is hosting an event at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday for Florida Republican leaders, NBC notes.

The Independent has reached out to the DeSantis campaign for comment.

The scheme comes after Mr Trump was quick to lock down the endorsements of the Florida Republican congressional delegation. Party leaders then voted to remove a requirement that Republican presidential candidates back the eventual nominee, a sticking point for Mr Trump in 2016 and other candidates in this race who do not want to commit to supporting the primary winner. This measure was opposed by the governor and his allies, who worked to keep the rule.

Before the vote, Mr Trump invited Florida Republican leaders to Mar-a-Lago, something viewed by many as a way to lobby them to get rid of the requirement.

Mr Trump organising yet another get-together is seen as him putting a bow on his takeover of the party in Florida, NBC notes, with a Florida Republican telling the network: “In the lead-up to the repeal of the loyalty oath, state executive committee members were invited to a Mar-a-Lago event. It seems like a solid approach to win over grassroots leaders that have been largely ignored by the DeSantis operation during the re-elect and the presidential campaign to this point.”

The chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Christian Ziegler, who’s seen as being in Mr Trump’s camp, told NBC News, “I get it, there is a lot of intrigue with such a contentious party primary”.

“It happens every couple years ... Instead of accepting the neutrality position, the media and public try to guess which corner you are in by making assumptions based on what colour tie you are wearing or if they spot you throwing a baseball,” he added. “Externally that consumes the headlines, but internally we are laser-focused on getting the Republican Party ready to take whomever our nominee is and ensure that they beat the Democrat.”

While Mr DeSantis will be speaking at midday on Saturday at the Florida Freedom Summit, Mr Trump is the keynote speaker.

The governor is endorsed by 99 Republicans in the legislature on the state level, which is most of the party, but Mr DeSantis appear to be haemorrhaging support here as well.

The only Jewish Republican in the legislature, State Rep Rany Fine, moved over to back Mr Trump in October pointing to the governor’s response to the Hamas attacks on Israel, The Messenger reported.

Another member, State Rep Juan Carlos Porras, told NBC that he thinks that members “are beginning to see the writing on the wall”.

“Donald Trump is going to be our Republican nominee for president in 2024, and no amount of polling and data can prove otherwise at the moment,” he added. “I was proud to endorse him back in June when he visited the Versailles Restaurant in Miami, and I will continue to work to make sure he will be the 47th president of the United States.”