President Donald Trump on Thursday thanked those who fought for him during his impeachment battle. Yet he also took time to thank one Republican who has hardly been outspoken in his defense, at least publicly: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
For more than a minute, Trump told supporters in the East Room of the White House about how DeSantis owes the governor’s mansion to his support.
"Ron DeSantis is another one. He works so hard. And he called me and he said "Sir, I’d like to run for governor.' I said, ‘Governor? I don’t want you to run for governor. I’d like you staying —’ (Trump surely enjoyed having DeSantis in Congress, where he was before leaving to run for governor, because he was one of Trump’s staunchest defenders).
And he said, ‘No, I want to run for governor.’ And I said, ‘Well, if you have to,’ (and then DeSantis said) ‘I’d like your support.’
"And I said, ‘How can I support you, you’re (polling) at 3 (percent)?’
"He was at 3, he had no money. Somebody else was at 38 and they had $22 million cash, right? I said, ‘Look, if it’s important, I’ll do it,’ because he’s been another great warrior. And, by the way, he ran, I endorsed him, his numbers went through the roof. "
Trump’s effect on the race is unquestionable. He first tweeted his support on Dec. 22, 2017, when DeSantis was a longshot:
And then he followed that up five months later with an official Twitter endorsement:
The frontrunner, Trump’s “somebody else”, was Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. His campaign dismissed the endorsement at the time as insignificant.
By June, DeSantis had raised $9 million and Putnam had raised $29.4 million for his run (having started way before DeSantis, the upstart). Putnam still had establishment support from the likes of then-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and then-House Speaker Richard Corcoran. But while Putnam encountered unexpected problems about his track record, DeSantis ran a campaign so tightly aligned to Trump that he joked about it in an incredibly effective and disarming TV ad. And before the primary, Trump stumped for DeSantis in Tampa.
It all led to DeSantis easily beating Putnam, who ended up spending $37 million.
On Thursday, Trump disclosed something that hadn’t been known before, claiming that Putnam called him after he was defeated.
The man he beat, the man who was expected to win easily, called and told me, after the race, he said, ‘You endorsed him, and it was like a nuclear bomb went off. There was nothing I could do.’ He never even spent his money. He saved it.
(Well....Putnam did end up spending an eye-popping $37 million.)
But Ron DeSantis is another one and now he’s governor of Florida, and by the way, he’s a great governor, he’s a very popular governor, his numbers are in the 70s, and he’s done a great job.
DeSantis’ office would not immediately confirm this account for the Times.
But Trump’s message is a clear one to DeSantis: You owe me. Bigly.