Florida Governor Ron DeSantis brings his presidential campaign to Utah, again

DeSantis headlined the Utah GOP convention in April

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the keynote address at the Utah Republican Party 2023 Organizing Convention at Utah Valley University's UCCU Center on Saturday, April 22, 2023.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will make his second trip to Utah in three months on Friday, hoping for a financial and political boost for his struggling 2024 presidential campaign.

DeSantis called Florida the “Utah of the Southeast” when he was the keynote speaker at April’s Utah Republican Party State Convention.

His latest trip to the state will revolve around raising cash and picking up political support from Republican lawmakers during an event at the Utah State Capitol.

DeSantis’ visit comes as his campaign appears to be teetering. His operation fired more than a dozen staffers earlier this week amid a reported cash crunch. He’s also trailing in the polls, with former President Donald Trump leading by more than 30 points nationally among Republican voters.

State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, plans to publicly endorse DeSantis for president at the Friday afternoon event because he thinks the Florida Governor has the best chance of defeating President Joe Biden next year.

“There are two things I look for in a candidate. I want someone who embraces the same core values I do and has the possibility of winning,” Weiler said.

Weiler added he’s not worried about DeSantis’ struggles on the campaign trail.

“Eight years ago, Scott Walker was the leading Republican candidate, and Donald Trump was in seventh place. We know how that turned out,” Weiler said.

An April statewide poll of Utahns conducted by Noble Predictive Insights found Trump leading DeSantis 41% to 23% in a hypothetical presidential primary matchup next year.

Weiler would not say whether he would throw his support behind Trump if he were to win the GOP nomination for a third time.

House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, plans to welcome DeSantis to Utah on Friday but is not endorsing his candidacy.

“I’m excited that we’re getting presidential candidates in Utah,” Schultz said, adding he’s expecting to see other Republicans make their way to the state as Utah is one of 15 states holding presidential nominating contests on Super Tuesday.

DeSantis has raised the most money from Utah of any 2024 presidential hopeful, raking in more than $113,000 in donations since he officially launched his campaign in May. He’ll add to that total Friday.

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, is hosting a high-dollar “Pioneer Day Barbecue” for DeSantis in Pleasant Grove on Friday evening. The cost is a $1,000 donation for individual attendees. A VIP option is $6,600 individually or $13,200 per couple.