Despite trailing in every poll reported by Five Thirty Eight, Ron DeSantis appears to not be giving up on Iowa. He recently received the endorsement of Bob Vander Plaats, President and CEO of The Family Leader. Vander Plaats has a history of working against Donald Trump, having endorsed Ted Cruz in 2015. In 2020 Vander Plaats invited Democrat candidates to speak in front of his organization, but not Donald Trump.
In a July 14th interview with CBS News, Vander Plaats claimed that Ron DeSantis was the ”clear alternative” to President Trump. Interestingly enough, this was a mere days after The Family Leader received a substantial donation from Never Back Down, a Super PAC created to support the DeSantis campaign. Federal Election Commission reports show a donation in the amount of $500,000 was completed on 7/3/2023.
Vander Plaats told CBS news that “if Trump wins Iowa, that’s it” but “if he gets beat here, then I think whoever beats him here, it’s ‘game on’ [for] the nomination.” It appears that Vander Plaats is willing to do whatever is within his means to make sure that Donald Trump doesn’t win Iowa.
Unlike Governor Kim Reynolds, Vander Plaats told CBS that he plans to endorse a candidate in December, ahead of the mid-January Iowa caucuses and indicated that Trump was unlikely to receive his support.
“My fear is too much of American has made up their mind on the former president. They want a new generational leader,” Vander Plaats said. “For me, I do believe it is probably time that we turn the page.”
In addition to the 6 figure exchange of funds for Vander Plaats support, Never Back Down continues to invest big in Iowa on other fronts. According to multiple reports the Super PAC has recently completed a 7 figure ad buy across Iowa to attack Donald Trump. The ad, generated by Artificial Intelligence, uses a robotic Trump voice to read from Trump’s previous Truth Social Posts.
According to reports, DeSantis claims he is also willing to consider Iowa governor Kim Reynolds as his running mate. One thing is for sure, Ron DeSantis and Never Back Down appear to be willing to spend whatever cash or political capital is required in order to be competitive in Iowa.
Vander Plaats has a clear history of opposition to Donald Trump. Ron DeSantis has a track record of spending money where needed to gain political favor, so perhaps these two merely developed an organic relationship. While impossible to say with certainty the $500,00 payment was a bribe for an endorsement, it is clearly a bad look.
Follow Tim Sharp on X at @realtimsharp.