Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign is in trouble. Two months after declaring, DeSantis is polling about thirty points behind former President Donald Trump and appears to be running a campaign in discord.
The problems are myriad. “Allies are complaining about a lack of a coherent message about why Republican voters should choose Mr. DeSantis over former President Donald J. Trump.” And “early strategic fissures have emerged between his own political team and the enormous super PAC that will spend tens of millions of dollars to help him,” The New York Times reported.
And the campaign is overspending. One example is an expenditure of $279,000 at the Four Seasons in Miami. “The first glimpse into his political finances showed unsustainable levels of spending – including a taste for private plans – and a fund-raising operation that was alarmingly dependent on its biggest contributors and that did not meet its expectations.”
Now DeSantis is scrambling to cut about a third of his campaign staff and pivot into “insurgency” mode, a campaign that runs “leaner” and “meaner.”
“Ron DeSantis loves being the underdog and he’s ready to prove everyone wrong again,” campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo wrote in a memo.
Tension Between Campaign and Super PAC
The biggest problem with the DeSantis campaign, arguably, is the internal tension between the campaign and the super PAC financing the campaign, Never Back Down. Each side blames the other for DeSantis’s problems. The tensions seem to stem from a “fundamental disagreement over who should truly be in charge: the nominal campaign, which is under the direct control of the candidate and his closest advisers, or the super PAC, which can accept massive checks from wealthy donors but is barred from coordinating with DeSantis or the campaign,” POLITICO reported.
The DeSantis campaign downplayed the apparent tension. “Our campaign is laser-focused [on] electing Ron DeSantis president and we are nothing but grateful for groups like Never Back Down that are working to support this mission,” Romeo said in a statement.
Never Back Down felt differently. Some reports indicate that Never Back Down was operating under the impression that they were “the de facto DeSantis campaign while the actual DeSantis campaign would be almost a shell operation.” Justifying the arrangement? Never Back Down raised $130 million in Q2. The campaign, meanwhile, raised just $20 million. So, the super PAC, having raised 650 percent more than the campaign, feels entitled to some decision-making.
Compounding the imbalance, “DeSantis’s campaign appears to have drained its coffers on overhead, not advertising – to the point that some insiders believe it won’t be able to air TV ads for a long while yet, forcing [Never Back Down] to fill the void,” POLITICO reported.
Bad Timing for Internal Discord
The internal strife within the DeSantis campaign comes at a bad time; Donald Trump is positively surging in the polls, with a plurality approaching a majority in two super-critical early-voting states, Iowa and South Carolina.
Perhaps counterintuitively, Trump has only grown stronger with each previous indictment. Given that a third indictment appears imminent, Trump may be on the verge of another surge in popularity. As it stands, Trump may be uncatchable. If the DeSantis campaign can’t recalibrate and put forth a coherent message and put aside the in-fighting and balance its checkbook, Trump will cruise to a third consecutive GOP nomination.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.