Donald Trump Jr. joins Fox News team campaigning for DeSantis

Donald Trump Jr. hailed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis as a fighter for President Donald Trump’s agenda at a Wednesday rally that showcased the Trump and Fox News connections that have lifted DeSantis among Republican primary voters in his bid for Florida governor.

The younger Trump, accompanied by girlfriend and Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, appeared with DeSantis at an afternoon event. Trump Jr. was also scheduled to attend an evening fundraiser with DeSantis.

DeSantis has gained momentum heading into the Aug. 28 GOP primary against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam since the president weighed in with his “full endorsement” of DeSantis last month.

DeSantis has been a frequent guest on Fox News programs to defend the president and criticize special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe. On Monday, shortly after the president stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin and gave equivocal remarks about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, DeSantis appeared on Fox to assert that Russia’s actions didn’t influence the election’s outcome and occurred while Barack Obama was president.

“I love him in Congress and I love him on TV,” said Trump Jr. of DeSantis. “But Florida, being the state that it is, with the demograhpics that it has, you need a Republican governor to keep it running … He’s going to fight as hard for you as he has for my father, as he has in D.C.”

Trump Jr. recalled his father’s 2016 victory and spoke of the Trump agenda being carried out over the next “six and a half years,” but urged Trump supporters not to overlook this year’s midterm elections.

“We have to stay engaged,” Trump Jr. said. “Don’t take it for granted. Just because — and I see all the MAGA hats and I feel all the love in this room — just because Donald Trump isn’t on the ticket doesn’t mean that everything that he has accomplished is not on the ticket. It is.”

Guilfoyle didn’t speak at the rally but was singled out by Trump Jr. and obliged several fans by posing for pictures.

“Kimberly’s on vacation and she’s here with me. I mean, I’m the worst boyfriend ever. I mean think about that – she’s going to political rallies,” Trump Jr. joked as he took the stage before hundreds of DeSantis supporters at B.B. King’s Blues Club on International Drive.

Fox News stars Sean Hannity and Mark Levin have campaigned for DeSantis in recent weeks. Another Fox personality, Jeanine Pirro, was scheduled to appear Wednesday but couldn’t make it because of a scheduling conflict, DeSantis’ campaign said.

Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent and conservative commentator who appears frequently on Fox, opened Wednesday’s rally for DeSantis. He spoke of having “no more time for fake media outrage campaigns” — the day’s only apparent allusion to this week’s bipartisan uproar over the president’s appearance with Putin in Finland.

Donald Trump Jr. has figured in the Russia controversy because of his attendance at a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York with a Russian lawyer and others that was set up after an email promised damaging information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

President Trump praised DeSantis in a December tweet that stopped short of a formal endorsement. He followed up in June with a tweet that conferred his “full endorsement” on DeSantis. At the time, a Fox News poll showed Putnam leading DeSantis, 32 percent to 17 percent.

But in a post-endorsement poll first reported in Politico this week, Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio found Republicans favoring DeSantis over Putnam by 12 points. Those aware of Trump’s endorsement favored DeSantis by a 58-to-27 percent margin in Fabrizio’s poll.

Roxene Chamberlin of Belleview in Central Florida attended Wednesday’s rally saying she didn’t know much about DeSantis. But Trump’s endorsement, she said, means DeSantis is “probably for the same values we are and that’s important.”

Bruce Grisham of The Villages, the Central Florida retiree community that is a significant trove of Republican votes, had similar sentiments.

“The biggest thing I like about him is he’s a Trump supporter, that’s the main thing, and then the fact that Trump supports him,” Grisham said.

DeSantis’ frequent Fox appearances are also a plus with Trump supporters.

“He’s been defending Trump. He’s on TV every night fighting against the garbage that’s going on in Washington as we speak, the traitorous creeps that are trying to destroy our country. That’s why I support him,” said Donna Barron of Orlando.

Just as Trump pitted himself against the GOP establishment on his way to winning the Republican presidential nomination, DeSantis has cast himself as an outsider battling longtime elected official Putnam, who since 1996 has served in the Florida House, U.S. House and as Agriculture commissioner.

“Adam Putnam, though I respect him, he is somebody who is a career politician,” DeSantis said at the rally. “He’s been in office since he was 22 years old, he’s a transactional Republican and he is the choice of every insider in Tallahassee and the good old boys up in Tallahasee.”

DeSantis, interrupted by a Trumpian shout of “Drain the swamp!” from the crowd, continued by calling Putnam “the crown prince of crony capitalism. He’s the toast of Tallahassee.”

One or more protesters briefly interrupted DeSantis’ remarks before being drowned out by shouts of “U.S.A.” and led out of the event.

“I guess we had George Soros in the house,” DeSantis said, referring to the liberal megadonor who has backed one of the Democrats in the race, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

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