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DeSantis makes last-minute Iowa stop amid plan to move headquarters

New Hampshire Republican on Trump's town hall
New Hampshire Republican on Trump's town hall and why he's backing DeSantis 01:15

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made a surprise last-minute appearance in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday night shortly after former President Donald Trump canceled his scheduled rally in the area, citing weather conditions. 

DeSantis spoke at a fundraising event for Rep. Randy Feenstra in Sioux Center earlier in the day before flying to Cedar Rapids for a panel discussion with Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kauffman. The unscheduled appearance in Des Moines took place at a barbeque joint nearby where the Trump campaign was planning to hold its rally. 

"There's a lot of reasons for pessimism. Republicans have lost a lot of elections recently," DeSantis said in Des Moines on Saturday night. "But I think Florida and Iowa are a source of hope because we show you can get it done."

DeSantis said he's delivered results for Florida, adding, "we're gonna have a chance pretty soon to make sure that's done in every state in this country."

APTOPIX Election 2024 DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks with reporters after speaking at a fundraising picnic for U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, Saturday, May 13, 2023, in Sioux Center, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall / AP

The second trip to Iowa this year for DeSantis comes as he inches closer to a 2024 presidential campaign bid.

The governor is eyeing a launch into the 2024 presidential race within the next couple weeks, at least three sources with knowledge of the governor's planning tell CBS News.  

The DeSantis political operation is also expected to move its headquarters to a new location in Tallahassee on Monday, which will kick-start a window for the first federal election disclosures for a potential 2024 DeSantis campaign, according to a person with knowledge about the move. 

This expected headquarters move was first reported by NBC News

Because the move out of their current home in the Republican Party of Florida office is likely to cost more than $5,000, it will kick-start a window of 15 days for DeSantis to submit filings with the Federal Elections Committee to register as a candidate and designate a principal campaign committee.

Those filings would be the most official sign yet, on paper, of a 2024 presidential bid for the Florida governor. 

A spokesperson for DeSantis declined to comment. 

"If you spend more than $5,000 to open your [2024] federal campaign headquarters, then you have officially taken action to run for office. There's no debating whether that particular action reflects intent to be a candidate or not, so you would be obligated to file," one campaign finance expert told CBS News on Saturday.

CBS News has previously reported that DeSantis is expected to officially launch a presidential campaign from Florida, though plans remain fluid, according to a person familiar with the governor's planning. 

Earlier this week, DeSantis also disassociated himself from his "Friends of Ron DeSantis" state political committee, which has over $81 million in cash on hand. The move is a necessary step before a federal run, or that money is transferred to a super PAC that is supporting a DeSantis 2024 run. 

Since March, DeSantis has been traveling to multiple early presidential primary states and battleground states to promote his recent book and his track record in Florida, dubbed the "Freedom Blueprint."

On Saturday, DeSantis was in Sioux Center, Iowa, to speak at the annual family picnic hosted by Rep. Randy Feenstra. He was greeted by over 600 attendees who each paid $50 to get into the event, which is raising money for Feenstra. 

Prior to his remarks, DeSantis met with more than a dozen Iowa state lawmakers behind closed doors Saturday morning in Sioux Center, according to a source who was present at the meeting. The source described the meeting with DeSantis as "informal but substantive," adding that the governor was engaged and friendly. 

A pro-DeSantis PAC, Never Back Down, is building a campaign infrastructure in Iowa and bringing on key staffers according to information first shared with CBS News. Longtime Iowa GOP political strategist and lobbyist Jake Highfill, who has worked with Iowa state lawmakers in recent years, has joined the team to help run the Iowa operations. 

During DeSantis' remarks, he lauded his own accomplishments in Florida and joked that Florida is the "Iowa of the Southeast" because of how the two states similarly handled the COVID-19 pandemic and are now tackling education issues.

The loudest applause came when DeSantis said he would "shut down the border immediately" to deal with illegal immigration.

In what could be perceived as a shot at the former president, DeSantis, without mentioning Trump, said governing is "not about entertaining or building a brand or talking on social media," adding that "it is about winning and producing results."

Trump was scheduled to host a rally on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa, but it was canceled due to weather conditions, according to his campaign.    

— Robert Costa contributed to this report. 

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