Trump Is Racking Up Endorsements In Florida. Should DeSantis Be Worried?

The first one came all the way back in November. The second was on March 20. Then there were a couple more in the first two weeks of April.

Then, last week, it turned into a flood: Seven U.S. representatives from Florida endorsed former President Donald Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. It was a dominant show of support in the home state of Trump’s presumed main rival for the nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — and it came the very week DeSantis traveled to Washington, D.C., to court members of Congress. Instead, though, he mostly just got bad press: Members of Florida’s congressional delegation publicly complained about how little they had heard from DeSantis until recently. 

Trump’s Florida endorsement haul is impressive not only for 2024; it’s impressive by historical standards too. According to FiveThirtyEight’s historical database of endorsements in presidential primaries, Trump’s 11 congressional endorsements from Florida are the most for any presidential candidate from a rival’s home state at this point in the primary calendar since at least 1972 (excluding primaries in which an incumbent president was running for reelection).

Admittedly, this is perhaps unsurprising since Trump is an ex-president running for reelection. And it’s probably not a coincidence that the presidential candidate with the second-most endorsements from a rival’s home state in this time frame was a sitting vice president: George H.W. Bush, who by the end of April 1987 had been endorsed by nine Republican representatives from New York, the home state of then-Rep. Jack Kemp.

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Nor is it a coincidence that the states from which Trump and Bush earned so many endorsements were Florida and New York. Those are big states with lots of representatives; most states don’t even have nine members of Congress to get endorsed by! But Trump’s level of support in Florida is impressive even as a share of the state’s House delegation (at least those who belong to the same party). Trump has been endorsed by 55 percent (11 out of 20) of Florida’s Republican representatives. That’s the second-highest endorsement rate among same-party representatives from a rival’s home state since 1972, behind Bush in 1987.

Trump has nabbed a high share of Florida endorsers

Presidential candidates endorsed by at least three U.S. representatives from one of their rivals’ home states by April 30 the year before incumbent-less presidential primaries, the share of all representatives of the same party in that state who endorsed them and endorsements from its senators or governor

Endorsee Year Party State (Rival) % of Reps. Sens. Gov. Won Nom.?
George H.W. Bush 1988 R NY (Jack Kemp) 64% 0 0
Donald Trump 2024 R FL (Ron DeSantis)* 55 0 0 ?
Donald Trump 2024 R SC (2 candidates) 50 1 1 ?
Hillary Clinton 2016 D MD (Martin O’Malley) 43 2 0
Elizabeth Warren 2020 D MA (2 candidates)* 33 1 0
Joe Biden 2020 D PA (Joe Sestak) 33 1 0
Rudy Giuliani 2008 R CA (Duncan L. Hunter) 32 0 0
Jeb Bush 2016 R FL (Marco Rubio)* 29 0 0
George W. Bush 2000 R NY (Steve Forbes) 25 0 0
Pete Wilson 1996 R CA (Bob Dornan)* 20 0 0
Mitt Romney 2008 R CA (Duncan L. Hunter) 16 0 0
Kamala Harris 2020 D CA (3 candidates)* 9 0 1

*Also the endorsee’s home state.

Candidates cannot endorse themselves.

Sources: “The Party Decides,” news reports

But Florida isn’t the only one of his rivals’ home states where Trump is racking up the endorsements. Arguably, his strength in South Carolina is just as impressive. Half (three of six) of the state’s Republican House members have endorsed him, plus Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Henry McMaster — despite the fact that he’s running against not one but two South Carolinians: former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott. (Scott is not formally in the race, but he has formed an exploratory committee.)

We also can’t ignore the fact that Florida is technically Trump’s home state as well. Although DeSantis doubtlessly holds special claim to the Sunshine State as its governor, Trump established residency there in 2019, and he probably enjoys some favorite-son status too. Indeed, four of the other candidates in the table above are included only because they locked up a significant number of endorsements in their own states — which just so happened to also be home to one or more of their rivals. 

As historic as Trump’s support in Florida and South Carolina is, though, it’s not clear what it means for his chances of winning the nomination. Early endorsements in a rival’s home state aren’t a great predictive measure; just look where the other candidates in the table ended up. Bush won the Republican nomination in 1988, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who comes in just below Trump in the table) won the Democratic nod in 2016. But only two other candidates in the table won their primaries, and the four who had high endorsement rates in their home states all lost. The reality is that dominating endorsements in just one state isn’t enough to win a nationwide primary; you need broader support (and among voters, not just your fellow politicians).

That said, Trump is the only person on this list who dominated endorsements in the home state of their main rival. Kemp wasn’t a major player in that 1988 race; Clinton made the list because she racked up endorsements not in Vermont (home of Sen. Bernie Sanders) but in Maryland (home of former Gov. Martin O’Malley). Rep. Seth Moulton and former Gov. Deval Patrick were nonfactors in the 2020 Democratic primary, so it’s not that impressive that Sen. Elizabeth Warren won endorsements from three of their nine fellow Massachusetts Democrats. In 2008, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani probably didn’t have much trouble wresting California endorsements away from then-Rep. Duncan L. Hunter (who?). I could go on.

Maybe not every endorsee in the table above won the nomination — but none of the rivals they embarrassed on their home turf did. Ultimately, the sample size of campaigns where one candidate got a ton of endorsements from an opponent’s home state is probably too small to draw any meaningful conclusions from. But it’s not a good sign for DeSantis that his fellow Floridians prefer another guy to be president.

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