Real estate tycoon Robert Bigelow, the biggest donor to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2024 presidential campaign, said he’s now backing former President Donald Trump, in part because the security threat posed by the unrest in the Middle East requires the “strongest commander” and that the former president is the obvious choice.
Calling President Trump a “bull” and Mr. DeSantis “dinner,” Mr. Bigelow told The Financial Times in an interview Wednesday that he believes the former president’s campaign has built up significant steam, making him hard to beat.
“I think Trump is too strong,” Mr. Bigelow told the outlet. “I think Trump has the momentum, the inertia, to beat him.”
Recent polling puts the former president roughly 30 points ahead of rivals, with Mr. DeSantis and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley jockeying for second place.
But while Mr. Bigelow said he believes President Trump will be able to secure the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, there’s one condition—that one of his several court cases doesn’t land him behind bars.
President Trump faces a number of legal battles, including four sets of criminal charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty while alleging they’re all part of a plan hatched by his political opponents to undermine his White House run.
‘Strongest Commander’The Nevada real estate investor, who donated over $20 million to the DeSantis campaign earlier this year, said that the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war was a major factor behind his change of heart.
“I’ve got to look at who would probably be the strongest commander, with the most experience,” Mr. Bigelow told FT. “And that’s only one guy,” he continued, while calling President Trump “streetwise” and “a hell of an [expletive] kicker if he needed to be.”
“On the face of it, you lean toward Trump,” he added while weighing the question of who he would prefer to see in the role of America’s commander-in-chief in the face of unrest in the Middle East, which could spill across the region more widely, potentially triggering greater involvement by the United States, a key ally to Israel as it battles the Hamas terror group.
Mr. Bigelow said he backed Mr. DeSantis in part because of his efforts to push back against COVID-19 lockdowns and keep businesses open but that the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East had shifted the calculus.
He also objected to Mr. DeSantis’ hard line on abortion (he signed a bill in April banning abortion in Florida past six weeks), criticizing the Florida governor for being too focused on “conservatism” while suggesting President Trump would be more moderate.
Mr. DeSantis’ campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr. Bigelow’s remarks.
Kim Reynolds Backs DeSantisIowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday endorsed the Florida governor for the presidency, saying she believes he has a better chance of winning the 2024 general election than President Trump.
Ms. Reynolds threw her weight behind Mr. DeSantis during a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa.
“We are resilient. We can turn this country around,” she told the crowd at the rally. “But if we don’t get this next election right, if we don’t choose right, we are not going to get this country back. So, we have to do everything we can to make the right choice.”
The Iowa governor emphasized the importance of electing a candidate capable of defeating President Joe Biden while also having “the skill and the resolve to reverse the madness that we see every single day.”
“We need someone who will fight for you and win for you,” she said. “We need someone who won’t get distracted but will stay disciplined, who puts this country first and not himself. That leader is Ron DeSantis!”
For his part, Mr. DeSantis said recently that he doesn’t think President Trump would stand a chance in the 2024 general election if he’s convicted of any of the charges he faces.
“Do I think somebody under those circumstances could get elected president? The answer is no,” Mr. DeSantis told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in a recent interview. “That will not happen. I think that Republican voters will understand that as we get closer to voting. But it is—it would be fatal in a general election, and I don’t think the party should—should nominate in that situation.”
At the same time, Mr. DeSantis said he would stand by a pledge he signed promising to back whichever nominee the Republican chooses—including President Trump.