DeSantis has assessed his chances of emerging as an alternative to Trump directly on Iowa. Reynolds is very popular within the GOP and will break with longstanding Iowa tradition and support DeSantis. Iowa’s governor typically remains neutral ahead of the caucuses that open the Republican nomination calendar in January.
The people familiar with the matter spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity ahead of a rally Monday in Des Moines where Reynolds is expected to announce her support. The Des Moines Register and NBC News first reported the expected endorsement.
Reynolds had introduced DeSantis at political events in Iowa and appeared with Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis – without publicly declaring her support. But the governor often pointed to their shared policy priorities and achievements, including a bill banning abortion in the sixth week of pregnancy.
Reynolds, who is in her second term, had left open the possibility of supporting a candidate in the Jan. 15 caucuses.
She introduced Trump at an event in March. But Trump has accused her of disloyalty for weighing an endorsement before the caucuses and tried to blame her for winning the governorship.
She was quick to criticize his campaign on Sunday.
“Kim Reynolds appears to have taken early retirement as she appears to have no ambition for higher office,” the Trump campaign said in an emailed statement. “Earlier this year she promised her voters that she would remain neutral in the race, but she has completely backtracked on that promise. Regardless, their support will make no difference in this race.”
Trump is the clear favorite to win Iowa. DeSantis is competing with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to emerge as a viable alternative to Trump in the top contest, which is just 10 weeks away.
A month ago, DeSantis sent about 20 employees from his campaign headquarters in Tallahassee to Iowa. The super-political action committee that supports him, Never Back Down, has had about two dozen employees reach out to potential caucus participants since the summer.
On Friday, DeSantis spoke to about 50 GOP activists at an early afternoon stop in Denison, the heart of Republican-heavy Crawford County. It was the 86th Iowa county he visited, with a mission to visit each of his 99, and the final piece of the puzzle in the bloc of conservative western Iowa.
Reynolds is popular within the party, among other things, because he signed a school choice bill and a strict abortion ban this year.
AP National Political Writer Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.
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