DeSantis meets privately with Kemp in Georgia

Ron DeSantis met privately with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday, the latest in his effort to fortify relationships with three Republican governors alienated by Donald Trump.

The meeting, at a hotel in Buckhead, Georgia, preceded DeSantis’ appearance at a gathering of presidential candidates hosted by conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson. The two talked for about 30 minutes and did not discuss an endorsement, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Former Vice President Mike Pence also met with Kemp on Friday, said a person familiar with the discussion, though they declined to share details of the conversation, including whether Pence sought an endorsement. Kemp spoke by phone on Thursday with another presidential candidate, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Kemp, a focus of Trump’s wrath for his resistance to overturning the results of the 2020 election in Georgia, is one of three Republican governors DeSantis has been courting in recent months. He has appeared in Iowa with that state’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, whom Trump has disparaged, and has defended New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu from Trump’s criticism. All three governors are popular in their home states, and two of them — Reynolds and Sununu — represent early-nominating states.

Kemp represents one of the most critical general election swing states in the country, and the meeting Friday comes on the heels of Trump’s indictment in the state. Earlier this week, Kemp ripped into Trump’s false claims about voter fraud there, writing, “For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward — under oath — and prove anything in a court of law. Our elections in Georgia are secure, accessible, and fair and will continue to be as long as I am governor. The future of our country is at stake in 2024 and that must be our focus.”

DeSantis, the Florida governor, is still running second to Trump in national Republican primary polls, though he has fallen further behind.

In their meeting Friday, DeSantis and Kemp discussed DeSantis’ recent appearance at the Iowa State Fair and the first primary debate next week, according to the two people familiar with the conversation. They also talked about what it’s like to campaign with family members on the road and about college football.

It’s the second time in recent months that DeSantis has met with Kemp. He also huddled with the governor at the Georgia statehouse earlier this year.

Kimberly Leonard contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this report included an incorrect title for DeSantis.

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