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- Sen. Cynthia Lummis declared that Ron DeSantis was the “current leader” of her party in November.
- Since then, DeSantis has faced significant headwinds as he moves toward launching a presidential campaign.
- But in an interview with Insider on Tuesday, Lummis said she hadn’t changed her mind.
In November, days after a midterm election that saw Republicans perform much worse than expected, Sen. Cynthia Lummis made waves by declaring that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — not former President Donald Trump — was the “current leader of the Republican Party.”
Several months later, amid significant political headwinds for DeSantis as he steps closer to launching a 2024 presidential campaign, the Wyoming Republican insisted during a brief interview with Insider at the Capitol on Tuesday that she still believes that’s the case.
“Clearly, President Trump is leading the pack for the presidential nomination at this point,” said Lummis. “But DeSantis — his style, and the issues he chooses to emphasize — are very much in keeping with what the public is talking about. That’s why I think he’s the leader of the party.”
Lummis has said that she’s likely to officially remain neutral in the 2024 primary, pointing to her admiration for Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, another soon-to-be-official GOP presidential candidate.
Her initial November comments in support of DeSantis came on the heels of a poor midterm performance that many in the party blamed on Trump. Lummis, who took office just days before the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol, was notably among a small group of Republican senators who followed Trump’s lead and voted against certifying some states’ election results.
Meanwhile, the Florida Governor had just won a resounding victory in his own re-election campaign, helping his party win super-majorities in the state legislature and deliver a handful of swing-district US House seats to Republicans.
With help from the state legislature, DeSantis has been free this year to pursue a broad range of policy goals, including signing a 6-week abortion ban and sweeping changes to the state’s education system. That’s on top of other pre-existing initiatives like the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, that limits the teaching of certain materials in classrooms.
“I think he leads on policy,” said Lummis. “So, I suspect regardless of what happens to his campaign for president, when the Republican platform is crafted, that you will see lots of DeSantis-type policy embedded in the Republican platform.”
In 2020, the party notably opted not to adopt a platform, citing pandemic-era restrictions and its “strong support” for Trump.
At the same time, DeSantis has gotten into a protracted war with Disney stemming from its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education bill — an effort that initially delighted conservatives, but has increasingly drawn criticism from his potential 2024 rivals.
“I disagree with those who say that he was attacking a company,” said Lummis. “He and the legislature were attacking Disney as a quasi-government in Florida.”
And as the burgeoning contest between DeSantis and Trump heats up — and the Florida’s governor’s 2024 primary polling takes a hit as a result, DeSantis has also faced questions about his skills as a retail politician.
A former GOP congressman who served with DeSantis in the House recently told POLITICO that he thinks the Florida Governor is an “asshole,” and Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation have mostly backed Trump over him. During a recent trip to Europe, business executives were reportedly unimpressed with the Florida Governor.
But Lummis, who overlapped with DeSantis in the House from 2013-2017, put a positive spin on it — and made a less-than-subtle dig at the former president.
“You know, he’s a no-drama guy,” Lummis said of DeSantis. “So when you compare him to someone who craves drama, yeah, he looks kind of dull — anybody looks dull compared to Trump.”
“But I think the public is also craving a little normal,” she said. “DeSantis is a reflection of normal in my mind.”