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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at the Reedy Creek Administration Building Monday, April 17, 2023, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. DeSantis has yet to enter the 2024 presidential race, but former President Donald Trump is aiming to drum up support in the Florida governor's backyard, securing endorsements already from about one-third of the Republicans in the state's congressional delegation.
Gov. Ron DeSantis in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on April 17, 2023.John Raoux / AP file

DeSantis draws big crowd for Wisconsin event — including pro-Trump protesters

The Florida governor is set to appear at a party fundraiser in Marathon County, Wisconsin over the weekend.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is heading into the heart of Trump country in central Wisconsin this weekend — and some of the former president’s supporters aren’t having it.

A local group of Trump supporters are planning counterprogramming outside of DeSantis’ appearance at the Marathon County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner event on Saturday, according to an email shared with NBC News and a Facebook posting, which called it a “patriotic rally.” 

“Tell Ron DeSantis that Wisconsin is Trump Country,” read the email, which encouraged attendees to show up outside the DeSantis-headlined dinner wearing their Trump gear. 

But Republicans in central Wisconsin are showing serious interest in fresh blood. The DeSantis ticket was so hot, organizers had to move the event to a convention center, which sold out at 570 people — 200 people more than have ever attended the dinner, said Kevin Hermening, chair of the Marathon County GOP. Hermening noted that the Lincoln Day event is on private property, which should keep any demonstrators at a distance. The event is on pace to also break a fundraising record, with an anticipated $30,000 in proceeds all set to go to the county party.  

“I know that there are a lot of people who would support President Trump again, but there are even some of those same people who are wanting to see a new generation of conservative leadership, expand the party and bring about the type of political change that is so desperately needed,” said Hermening, who is not yet supporting any candidate in the presidential race. 

But Joel Bartel, GOP party chair in the nearby Waupaca County, whose group posted the Trump rally invite on its Facebook page, said he doesn’t oppose a DeSantis presidential candidacy — in the future. 

“It’s not against DeSantis. We’re sending a clear message that we support Donald Trump in the state right now. It’s his party. Why should someone else come in and try to steal his right to run again?” said Bartel, who noted that Republicans in other counties were expected to attend. “I’m not against him. But we all want to be unified over one person instead of having 10,000 different candidates.” 

DeSantis has not entered the presidential race but is widely expected to do so. NBC News has reported that the Florida governor is planning to step into the presidential fray later this month.