What a Difference a Call Makes

Under The Hood

Photo courtesy U.S. Rep. Cory Mills: 10 members of Florida's congressional delegation at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump.

What a difference a phone call makes. This week, the decision to devote personal attention to a couple Sarasota congressman may have determined the next U.S. President. 

Okay, so grant me some hyperbole. A presidential election cycle ebbs and flows. But undoubtedly this was a terrible week for Gov. Ron DeSantis and a good one for former President Donald Trump. And that’s in part because Trump, hardly a man known for humility, made it a personal priority to secure the endorsements of U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Greg Steube, along with most Republicans in the Florida congressional delegation.

Steube’s on Monday endorsed Trump over DeSantis, who hasn’t officially launched a campaign for president yet but will do so within weeks. That made him the fifth U.S. representative from Florida to pick sides in the battle of Florida men seeking the GOP nomination in 2024. But it set off an avalanche. By week's end, 11 of the 20 Florida Republicans in the U.S. House publicly backed Trump. Only one, U.S. Rep. Laurel Lee, has sided with DeSantis.

Steube, unlike most of his peers, stated publicly part of the reason he was willing to snub Florida’s Governor. He hinted early that Trump was always personally supportive. Steube later told Politico that as he recently recovered in the hospital after a recent fall at his home, Trump called the ICU to speak about the accident.

But he tells me DeSantis hasn't called him. Not lately. Not ever.

"President Trump himself and close members of his political team speak frequently with me about a range of personal and political issues, and always have," Steube said. "In the five years I have been an elected member of Congress, Gov. DeSantis has never reached out to me to discuss any matter.”

Only recently, Steube heard for the first time from DeSantis’ campaign, but not the Governor himself. Rather, surrogate Ryan Tyson made the rounds calling Florida representatives asking them not to endorse Trump right now.

We see how well that worked.

Buchanan’s support for Trump came mid-week, two days after Steube and a day before Trump hosted 10 endorsing representatives for a dinner in Mar-a-Lago. Incidentally, state Sen. Joe Gruters also attended, becoming the first sitting state lawmaker in Florida to endorse Trump, but he’s been close to Trump for years and his support was a given.

Buchanan, more a product of early 2000s-era corporate Republicanism, was hardly in the bag for the populist.

But Trump and DeSantis handled Buchanan similar to how they treated Steube. Sources say Buchanan got a call from Tyson while spending time with his family. He had to call a staffer to ask who Tyson even was.

Meanwhile, Trump and Buchanan spoke personally on the phone this week.

Buchanan served with DeSantis in the House during the Governor’s entire six-year stint in Washington but the two were never close, despite Buchanan co-chairing the state delegation part of that time. But Buchanan also served as a House liaison to the Trump administration during negotiation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. He and the former president found enough to talk about for more than 20 minutes in a conversation this week. But as with Steube, Buchanan and DeSantis haven’t spent 20 seconds together on the phone this month.

What does all this mean?

Granted endorsements don’t always translate to election victories. As much as anything, they show structural and establishment support. But it’s shocking DeSantis, who just won re-election in a statewide landslide, could flounder so badly regarding Republican support in his own state. Trump, technically a Florida resident, will always be identified first as a creature of Manhattan. Yet the South Florida transplant just out-good-ole-boyed a native.

And all it took was a couple meaningful phone calls DeSantis could carve out the time to make. 

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor to SRQ MEDIA.

Photo courtesy U.S. Rep. Cory Mills: 10 members of Florida's congressional delegation at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump.

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