ORLANDO — U.S. Rep Ron DeSantis' early support for Donald Trump earned him a campaign visit on Wednesday from the president's eldest son, meant to boost the congressman's campaign for Florida governor.
Donald Trump Jr. praised DeSantis during a campaign stop before several hundred supporters at a restaurant in the heart of Orlando's tourist district.
The president is backing DeSantis in a hard-fought race against state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
"Why am I here in 2,000 percent humidity? It's because Ron DeSantis was there from Day 1," Trump said on a steamy Florida summer day. "He was with us when it wasn't exactly cool to be with us … when we were at zero percent."
DeSantis, for his part, was unwavering in supporting Trump, despite a rocky week for the president. Trump received bipartisan criticism for his comments following a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Trump's performance in Helsinki wasn't mentioned except sideways when a warm-up speaker denounced former CIA Director John Brennan, who this week went so far as to call Trump's actions "treasonous" after he doubted U.S. intelligence findings that Russia tried to sway the 2016 presidential election. Brennan's name was roundly booed.
"There's a reason Donald Trump endorsed me in this race because he knows I'm a leader," DeSantis said.
Supporters of DeSantis and the president at the rally also were unconcerned by the president's performance in Helsinki.
"He is a patriot. He isn't a puppet for Putin," Jay Bennett of Casselberry, Florida, said about the president. "For some people, the president can never do anything right. He could cure cancer and they would say it's the wrong type of cancer."
The Florida gubernatorial primary is next month. DeSantis promised he would shake up "the swamp" in Tallahassee if elected governor and fight "entrenched interests." The congressman called Putnam "a transactional Republican" who was "the crown prince of Tallahassee."
Several protesters were ejected from the rally after they tried to unfurl a banner and started shouting during DeSantis' speech.