Former Top Trump Official Announces Draft DeSantis Campaign

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Former Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli is starting a political action committee to draft Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis into the Republican presidential primary, he announced Thursday.

“I have been speaking to many grassroots conservative activists around the country who are very enthusiastic for Governor DeSantis to run for President in 2024,” Cuccinelli said in a statement. “The energy is there, grassroots conservatives see the Governor as a leader and a fighter with a winning conservative track record who will lead the Republican Party to victory in 2024. Based on those conversations, I am most confident that we will build an unmatched grassroots political army for Governor DeSantis to help carry him to the White House.”

Cuccinelli’s group, Never Back Down PAC, also released a digital ad to promote a DeSantis candidacy.

“Ron DeSantis doesn’t just talk, he acts. But most of all, he never backs down. Gov. DeSantis, today I’m asking you to run for president. You’ve had our back, now we will have yours,” Cuccinelli says in the ad.

Then-President Donald Trump appointed Cuccinelli to lead Citizens and Immigration Services in 2019, and later promoted him to Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate did not confirm the former Virginia state Attorney General to either position, both of which he held through the end of the Trump administration.

Cuccinelli is the latest Trump administration official to break with the former president. Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley has already declared her presidential candidacy, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is likely to run as well. Former White House Press Secretary and Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders called “for a new generation of Republican leadership” in her State of the Union response. She also pointedly declined an invitation to endorse Trump’s 2024 White House bid.

“Gov. DeSantis has made Florida the number one destination for Americans looking for more freedom and a brighter future,” Cuccinelli adds. (RELATED: TV Channel Had To Cut Feed When DeSantis Read Pornographic Book, Reporter Says)

GOP primary polls have consistently shown Trump and DeSantis to be the only candidates garnering more than 30% support. Trump generally leads DeSantis in national polls, but the Florida governor is ahead in several key states.