Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is taking extensive measures to boost his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, investing significant funds to court influential Christian conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats and his followers in Iowa.
As he trails behind former President Donald Trump in national polls and grapples with campaign challenges, DeSantis is concentrating his efforts on Iowa, hoping to disrupt Trump’s momentum by securing a victory in the state’s caucuses on January 15, a crucial step in the selection of the party’s next nominee.
Campaign finance records reveal that DeSantis’ campaign, a related super PAC, and a supportive nonprofit have disbursed $95,000 in recent months to the Family Leader Foundation, an Iowa-based nonprofit led by evangelical figure Bob Vander Plaats.
This move seeks to tap into the powerful evangelical voting base of Iowa, a decisive factor in DeSantis’ strategy.
In exchange for the financial support, DeSantis and his allies secured advertising space in a booklet distributed at a presidential candidate forum hosted by Vander Plaats’ organization.
The summit was attended by 2,000 Christian conservatives and featured DeSantis as a sponsor. However, the true value lies in cultivating a relationship with Vander Plaats, whose endorsement is highly sought-after in the state.
Vander Plaats, known for his significant influence in Iowa’s conservative circles, has previously endorsed winning candidates in the state’s caucuses.
DeSantis’ investment in Vander Plaats’ organization exceeds the norm for campaign spending in Iowa.
While some critics raise concerns about the substantial amount spent for limited exposure, Vander Plaats defends the charges, emphasizing the opportunity to address an engaged audience of grassroots activists.
Vander Plaats’ endorsement is pivotal due to the overwhelming influence of Iowa’s evangelical conservative movement.
With around two-thirds of the state’s 2016 Republican caucus-goers identifying as evangelical, securing their support could significantly impact the outcome.
DeSantis’ spokesperson, Andrew Romeo, expressed pride in sponsoring an ad with one of Iowa’s most potent social conservative groups.
Although Vander Plaats asserts that his endorsement is not for sale, the financial backing from DeSantis and others has generated speculation about the connection between money and support.
As DeSantis faces an uphill battle in states following Iowa on the Republican nominating calendar, securing a victory in the Iowa caucuses has become crucial for his campaign’s revival.
The fundraising document reveals the extent of candidates’ willingness to invest in Vander Plaats’ group, signaling the recognition of his kingmaker status in Iowa politics.
Vander Plaats’ sway in the state is well-established, given his track record of endorsing winning Iowa caucus candidates.
Despite his assurance that his endorsement is not influenced by money, his power remains evident.
The rivalry between DeSantis and Trump, both vying for the support of Iowa’s Christian conservative base, underscores the significance of Vander Plaats’ backing.
In the end, DeSantis’ substantial financial commitment to Vander Plaats’ organization underscores the pivotal role that Iowa’s evangelical conservatives play in shaping the course of the Republican presidential nomination race.