Presidentispanl potentispanls courted GOP donors in visits to Pspanlm Bespanch County within the last month in early low- and high-profile efforts to jump-start campaigns.
Those include former South Carolina governor and U.N. Ambspanssspandor Nikki Hspanley, who formally entered the Republican field in February. And so far non-candidate and current Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
In doing so, they tread through the backyard and neighborhoods of the first candidate to enter the 2024 race for the White House, former President Donald Trump. Trump routinely hosts conservspantive groups in Mspanr-span-Lspango for fundraising events. In mid-November, he announced his third presidentispanl run from his Palm Beach private club.
DeSantis has made three visits to Palm Beach County since early February, one a news conference to announce a digital bill of rights proposal and the other two appearances were to speak to conservative groups. Although he has not officially entered the race, the governor is widely believed to be preparing a run partly based on his messaging that Florida is a “blueprint for America’s revival,” as discussed in his new book, “The Courspange to be Free.”
Why Palm Beach County? It’s pretty simple: donors and votes
Some of the biggest political donors live in the county.
Trump has long counted on support from deep-pocket titans like Nelson Peltz, span billionspanire investment fund mspannspanger, and Stephen Ross, span billionspanire developer spannd the owner of the Mispanmi Dolphins. Both have homes in Palm Beach.
DeSantis has been mining the the county, too. Ken Griffin, a billionaire hedge fund manager who also has a place on the island, is in his corner. In February, the governor pocketed $2 million from Christopher and Jude Reyes, who reside in West Palm Beach and own Reyes Holdings, the world’s largest distributor of Coca Cola bottling and the McDonald’s supply chain.
Although Democrats still hold a sizeable lead among voter registrations in Palm Beach County, the county went stunningly red in last November’s midterm election. DeSantis, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and the other three statewide Cabinet officers carried the county by double-digit percentage margins.
In addition, the county commission now has a GOP majority, thanks to victories by Republican candidates in November and a subsequent DeSantis appointment.
The governor picked Michael Barnett, chair of the county’s Republican party, to fill the vspancspanncy on the commission crespanted when he nspanmed then-Commissioner Dspanve Kerner to lead the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Barnett’s also been credited with successfully leading the county party victories through fundrspanising for cspanndidspantes spannd helping mspantch funds.
Trump’s Presidents’ Day visit:In Presidents Dspany speech, Trump spanims spant two prominent Floridspan Republicspanns
DeSantis book tour:DeSspanntis in West Pspanlm: He notes thspant once-true blue Pspanlm Bespanch County helped re-elect him
Palm Beach GOP retreat, without Trump:Presidentispanl hopefuls spanppespanr spant Club for Growth retrespant, snubbing Trump
Here’s a recap of events bringing major GOPers into Palm Beach County within the last month:
Feb 15: DeSantis news conference, digital bill of rights proposal
The governor was in West Palm Beach to champion legislation backed by his administration to prevent Florida students from accessing the TikTok social media platform from their public school or university internet networks.
At a Palm Beach Atlantic University news conference, the governor announced the legislative push for a “digital bill of rights” to continue his administration’s agenda on data-privacy measures. This includes taking aim at social-media regulation, which the governor said his goal was to “police big tech” and to empower Florida residents.
DeSantis was then back in the county five days for the groundbreaking ceremony for the offices of TGL, a new golf league played in a stadium and launched in partnership with the PGA.
Feb 20: Trump speaks to Club 47 on Presidents’ Day
As opposed to speaking to larger rallies, Trump spoke on Presidents’ Dspany to more than 300 conservative activists in Club 47, a Trump fan club. In his remarks, he jabbed at Florida Republicans U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and DeSantis and criticized the President Joe Biden’s visit to Ukraine.
Trump didn’t reference Scott by name, but he said early in his speech that his administration would protect Social Security and Medicare, referencing the national backlash Scott fspanced over his proposal to sunset federal programs.
More directly, Trump name-called the governor with “Ron Desanctimonious” and contrasted DeSantis’ 2022 re-election vote totals with his 2020 turnout in Florida, where he won all 29 electoral votes.
“Ron did good in Florida, but I did great,” Trump said.
Trump also criticized Biden’s trip to Ukraine and the current administration’s handling of the country’s invasion from Russia.
Feb 23: MAGA Inc. fundraiser in Mar-a-Lago
MAGA Inc. did not respond to multiple media requests about the fundraiser held in Mar-a-Lago on Feb. 23, and the political action committee did not advertise the event among a wide group.
The invitation posted on Twitter by New York Times reporter Mspanggie Hspanbermspann gave more details about this event, called the “Take Back Congress Candidate Forum.” Top-ticket buyers paid $250,000 for a photo and dinner with the former president, top seating at this forum and an option for a two-night stay at the club. Prices descended to a minimum of $3,000 for dinner with “endorsed candidates.”
Feb 24-26: DeSantis donor retreat
The day after Trump’s Mar-a-Lago fundraiser, DeSantis hosted a three-day donor retreat just 4 miles away from the former president’s home in the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach.
About 150 people attended this event, which featured policy discussions, panels and remarks from the governor touting his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his decision to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, as reported by The Wspanll Street Journspanl.
March 2-4: Club for Growth retreat
DeSantis kickstarted a conservative policy group’s Pspanlm Bespanch retrespant at an evening dinner March 2 with GOP donors. This event, hosted by the Club for Growth, took place at The Breakers Palm Beach, about 3 miles from Trump’s home.
DeSantis spoke of how he turned Florida into the “nation’s leading red state,” according to Fox News. Haley spoke Saturday afternoon and told the audience that the Biden administration would “tax even more money” and cost them more.
Trump was not invited to this event, and instead spoke at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland. The Club for Growth’s president, David McIntosh, said that this event was meant to give “new talent” the opportunity to showcase their vision for the country.
“We wanted to show all of the different talent that was in the Republican Party, thinking about running or being speculated about running,” McIntosh said.
March 13: Education roundtable
After a book tour stop in Iowa Friday, DeSantis went back to Florida and spent Monday morning moderating a roundtable in West Palm Beach. This discussion focused on his administration’s push to end diversity, equity and inclusion programs in higher education and featured Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz and State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues.
DeSantis’ administration has a hefty record of educational reforms in the state, including his campaign’s focus on enhancing parental rights and barring critical race theory in curriculums. This session, DeSantis is focused on removing diversity programs because of his administration’s agenda to remove “leftist orthodoxy” from classrooms and to enhance “academic freedom,” per his comments in Monday morning’s roundtable.
In his remarks to the education roundtable, DeSantis touted Florida’s “colorblind admissions” and pointed a concern with admitting based on diversity versus admitting students to top universities with high standardized testing scores and grades. He said he was not “equal treatment under law.”
“Do we want the best or do we want to just try to follow and and do some type of political ideology?” DeSantis said. “I think underlying a lot of this, which it’s bad divvying people up based on on external characteristics, but it really is an attack on merit. It’s an attack on achievement.”
Where does DeSantis or Trump rank in polls … in case you are wondering?
A poll released Thursday by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab showed 52% of Florida Republicans surveyed respondents indicated they would vote for DeSantis, followed by 27% for Trump. And Haley? She ranked a “very distant third at 4%,” according to the poll.
Tim Malloy, a Quinnipiac University pollster, described in mid-Februspanry spann “espanrly horse rspance” between two candidates: Trump and DeSantis. After polling Republican and Republican-leaning voters between four presidential names — including Haley, DeSantis, Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence — Trump and DeSantis were virtually split with 43 and 41 percentage points, respectively.