Ron DeSantis Has a Problem
Part of the appeal of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, when he was first floated as a presidential candidate, was that he was supposedly beloved by the Republican donor class. In February, it was reported that DeSantis received 7-figure checks from several top GOP donors. There were multiple stories in the early part of this in which it appeared that DeSantis was making huge inroads with GOP donors, most among those who were never huge backers of Donald Trump, or those who had soured on the former president.
Just months later, the picture has changed significantly, even before DeSantis formally enters the presidential race, and not only because the governor has been dropping in the polls.
In April, Rolling Stone published texts by Ron DeSantis donors who were anxious about the soon-to-be candidate’s performance.
One group of such donors maintains a group text, in which they have been complaining about the man they were backing.
“What the [expletive] is wrong with RD?” one donor texted, per the story. After Ron DeSantis declined to leave the road during a publicity tour to deal with floods in South Florida.
Rolling Stone did not name the donors, who also complained about DeSantis’ comments on Ukraine and his strategy of not hitting back at attacks by Trump.
“Of course, it’s not a secret.… I don’t even know if I’d call it an open secret anymore. It’s just something everybody knows about,” one donor told Rolling Stone of the DeSantis dissatisfaction.
This week, a story in Politico said that DeSantis has also fallen out of favor with one major segment of big-money GOP donors: Wall Street.
Politico interviewed over a dozen “ bankers, attorneys, and political consultants” about their evolving views on DeSantis.
Some of them, in particular, have lost esteem for DeSantis due to his war with Disney.
“People will change horses,” Dave Carney, a veteran Republican strategist, told Politico. “You may get really excited about somebody and then all of a sudden realize, ‘Eh, not really my cup of tea.’”
The donors themselves, much like the previous story, were not named by Politico. But they painted a picture of DeSantis looking worse in the donors’ eyes. And other candidates, like Nikki Haley and the not-officially-declared-yet Tim Scott, have made some inroads with Wall Street.
“DeSantis is certainly a better option than Trump at this point,” one executive said. “But he’s a really weak option… What we probably wind up with is a choice between a guy who is very old and wants to raise our taxes and reregulate everything, and a guy who could be running from prison.”
Donald Trump, during his first campaign and the early part of his presidency, often railed against Wall Street, even including scary photos of the New York Stock Exchange in his final ad in 2016, despite owning a building, on Wall Street, a couple of blocks away. But as president, Trump was much more sympathetic towards big banks, even naming several Goldman Sachs veterans to his administration.
Ron DeSantis is not the only Republican Florida governor who ran for president while appealing to Wall Street, while later hitting worse headwinds.
“We all saw what happened to Jeb Bush, who everybody up here loved,” 0ne financial industry executive told Politico of the former Florida governor who entered the 2016 primaries as the favorite but was ultimately flattened by Trump. “He got crushed and crushed quickly, and that would just happen again.”
“We know everyone hates us and that nobody running for president wants to be seen as the ‘Wall Street candidate,’” a Wall Street executive said in the story. “So you’ll probably see a lot of people just sitting this one out.”
Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.