A super PAC backing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for president in 2024 will have a presence at this weekend’s New Hampshire GOP meeting, planting its flag in the state for the Florida governor and potentially setting up a clash with former President Trump, who will also be in attendance.
Ron to the Rescue, a super PAC formed after the midterms pushing support for DeSantis as the GOP nominee, will be in attendance at Saturday’s annual meeting in Salem, N.H.
The group will be collecting signatures to build up its team on the ground in the Granite State and unveiling a list of former New Hampshire Republican elected officials who are backing DeSantis over Trump ahead of next year’s primary.
“This is what I would call our opening salvo in New Hampshire,” said John Thomas, a GOP consultant who founded Ron to the Rescue.
Ron to the Rescue will have a booth at the New Hampshire GOP meeting, manned by staff from the super PAC and volunteers who are from New Hampshire, including former state officials who are supporting the Florida governor, Thomas said.
The group will also be giving out DeSantis-themed items, like T-shirts and bumper stickers, and signing up volunteers who are willing to serve as on-the-ground organizers for the super PAC.
“This is the first time that members of the party have had the opportunity to engage with anybody related to DeSantis for president,” Thomas said. “While we’ll certainly have a few people from Ron to the Rescue and staffers who aren’t from New Hampshire, most of the people there will be from the New Hampshire GOP. Our hope is it feels more friendly and relational rather than an out-of-town super PAC with no connection to people.”
Thomas said the Ron to the Rescue presence at Saturday’s meeting in Salem, N.H., has been in the works for about two months, but the event will have some added intrigue now that Trump plans to speak there, an appearance that was announced just this week.
Trump will address the crowd in New Hampshire before heading to South Carolina for an event.
“It definitely will change the pulse of the room more than what we thought it was going to be before,” Thomas said. “At some point we were going to end up in the same room as Trump. I guess better now than never.”
Thomas suggested Trump’s presence on Saturday may actually benefit DeSantis, as it could remind some Republicans why they’re lukewarm about the idea of a third Trump candidacy.
“All these people don’t dislike Trump, they just don’t think he should be the 2024 nominee,” Thomas said. “There’s not a level of animosity toward Donald Trump from the Ron DeSantis supporters we’ve engaged with.”
Trump took some jabs at DeSantis around the time of the midterms, suggesting the Florida governor was not gracious enough for Trump’s endorsement in the 2018 gubernatorial primary and warning that he could disclose unflattering information about DeSantis if the two squared off in a primary.
Ron to the Rescue was formed in November after the Florida governor coasted to reelection on an otherwise underwhelming night for Republicans, cementing him as a figure to watch in the 2024 presidential race.
The super PAC has released an ad arguing for DeSantis as the next president, but Saturday’s event underscores how the group is hoping to put boots on the ground in early voting states and organize support for the governor before he officially declares his 2024 candidacy. The super PAC would then give DeSantis a leg up if he announces a presidential bid and populates states like Iowa and New Hampshire with his own campaign infrastructure.
DeSantis has not announced whether he plans to run for president in 2024, but pundits expect him to get into the race later this year, with polls showing him as perhaps the most formidable challenger to Trump in a GOP primary.
A University of New Hampshire poll released Thursday found DeSantis leading Trump, 42 percent to 30 percent. The poll surveyed 347 likely GOP primary voters in the state, which holds the first primary on the Republican calendar after the Iowa caucuses.
The conservative group Club for Growth released polling after the midterms that showed DeSantis leading Trump in New Hampshire, Iowa and their shared home state of Florida.
But while DeSantis has shown momentum and separated himself from other potential GOP candidates, many polls still show him trailing the former president.
A Morning Consult poll released last week showed Trump leading DeSantis by 17 percentage points among Republican primary voters.
A Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey released last week also found Trump with a 20-percentage point lead over DeSantis in a hypothetical eight-way GOP primary. But DeSantis’s 28 percent support in that poll actually marked an increase of 3 percentage points since December.
Updated at 8:11 a.m.