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The governor of Iowa endorses Ron DeSantis in the GOP presidential race

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis received a big endorsement in the state that begins the presidential nominating process. The governor of Iowa made her announcement in Des Moines last night, and here's Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: Governor Kim Reynolds has remained neutral so far ahead of the caucuses, appearing with every Republican running for president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIM REYNOLDS: I could not and cannot sit on the sidelines any longer.

(CHEERING)

MASTERS: Now she's made up her mind, and she's for Ron DeSantis.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

REYNOLDS: I am so proud to stand here tonight and give him my full support and endorsement for president of the United States of America.

(CHEERING)

MASTERS: The two have a lot in common. They were both elected to their first full terms in 2018 and faced criticism for how they handled the pandemic. Both opened schools early and pushed back on vaccine and mask mandates. When DeSantis took the stage, he slipped in some comparisons between the two of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: I get called a lot of things now, but I think it was worse then. And I know she got called a lot of things and we took a lot of flak for that. But everybody looks back now and knows that those were the right decisions.

MASTERS: Both of them won by double digits in last year's midterm, when Republicans nationally did not do as well. It's pretty unusual for a high-ranking elected official here to endorse ahead of Iowa voters having their say. Former President Donald Trump blasted both of them, calling them disloyal and saying it's the end of Reynolds' political career.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DESANTIS: And I appreciate Governor Reynolds getting involved in the process. You know, look, when you do that, some people don't like it and some people say this or that.

MASTERS: In July, Trump criticized Reynolds for not endorsing him. Katie Wallin (ph) is for DeSantis and came to the event last night.

KATIE WALLIN: I think it's a good move. I think a lot of people like her, so I think it would make a - it'll make a difference. Like, I think people actually care about what she says.

MASTERS: Kathleen Jorgensen (ph) would fit that description. She plans to caucus for Vivek Ramaswamy but still showed up to hear from her governor.

KATHLEEN JORGENSEN: Governor Reynolds, she did make Ron DeSantis my definite No. 2. How's that (laughter)?

MASTERS: Having the state's top official stump for him will be an asset for DeSantis in Iowa, where he recently moved a third of his campaign staff. Still, even with her backing, DeSantis needs a lot of momentum in this uphill race dominated by Donald Trump.

For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Des Moines.

(SOUNDBITE OF HNNY'S "KINDNESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter. He was part of a team of member station political reporters who covered the 2016 presidential race for NPR. He also covers environmental issues.