DeSantis works to reassure donors, articulate stratetgy as campaign flounders

 July 16, 2023

Though he was once viewed as a very serious threat to former President Donald Trump's hopes of reclaiming the GOP presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' campaign has just issued a confidential memo designed to assuage concerns among donors and supporters about his seemingly worsening prospects, as NBC News reports.

News of the memo comes as a report in Politico suggests that some of DeSantis' high-dollar campaign benefactors are now signaling their openness to hearing from other potential nominees, in particular, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

Starting with strengths

Bearing a date of July 6 and a label that says, “confidential friends and family update...not for distribution,” the memo from the DeSantis camp aims to articulate the strategic direction that will be pursued in the coming months as Trump grows his status as primary frontrunner.

The communication began by touting the $20 million raised in the initial six weeks after the campaign was announced, declaring that the sum topped Trump's takings across his first two quarters as a declared candidate.

“Republicans are excited to invest in a winner ready to lead America's revival,” the memo went on. “We are grateful for the investment so many Americans have made to get this country back on track. The fight to save it will be long and challenging, but we have built an operation to share the governor's message and mobilize the millions of people who support it.”

The campaign also highlighted the more than 250 endorsements already secured from state legislators nationwide, attributing them in large part to DeSantis' policy rollout on securing the southern border.

Early-state focus

Another critical point emphasized in the memo was that significant efforts and resources will be poured into early primary states, with New Hampshire viewed with particular importance as a place where voter loyalty at this stage is seen as still malleable and subject to change.

“Early state voters are only softly committed to the candidates they select on a ballot question this far out – including many Trump supporters,” the communication stated. “Our focus group participants in the early states even say they do not plan on making up their mind until they meet the candidates or watch them debate.”

In terms of spending on advertising buys and ground operations, the memo indicated that it “would be a mistake to take a paid media and field program off the table in service of other states,” adding, “we will not cede New Hampshire... “[w]hile Super Tuesday is critically important, we will not dedicate resources to Super Tuesday that slow our momentum in New Hampshire.”

This strategy, as a pro-DeSantis veteran political operative explained to NBC News, is an acknowledgment of the fact that early primary contests will be determinative of the candidate's longevity in the race. “If you want to beat Trump, you have to run the table in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina,” the source said.

Preventing donor flight

The aforementioned source also noted that the DeSantis campaign is in need of some recalibration, because, as NBC News put it, “it's clear to activists and donors that the current operation is not working,” and that a growing number of influential behind-the-scenes figures are giving the likes of Scott a closer look as an alternative to Trump.

As Politico noted, Ronald Lauder, the billionaire Estee Lauder makeup scion, recently met with Scott amid what the outlet described as growing doubt among the ranks of wealthy Republicans about DeSantis' ability to overtake Trump.

The mounting unease among the conservative donor class and their willingness to consider options beyond DeSantis was confirmed to Politico by Andy Sabin, a metal industry mogul who said, “A lot of donors that I've met are all curious and want to meet Tim [Scott] and see what he's about. He's the one guy running who's got some personality and charisma. His delivery is terrific.”

With Trump maintaining sizable double-digit leads in general primary polling as well as in the early states DeSantis has deemed so vital, many believe, as one operative told NBC News, that “[t]here needs to be a shake-up inside and outside – today.” Though roughly a dozen campaign staffers working on the governor's behalf were, in fact just fired, whether such changes are of sufficient scale to make a measurable difference in his battle against Trump, only time will tell.

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