On Thursday, The New York Times published highlights from a document consisting of hundreds of pages of strategy for Gov. Ron DeSantis, in his first presidential debate next week.
The details are somewhat embarrassing – but the circumstances of how the document got out might be even more embarrassing for the struggling campaign.
Per The Times, the documents were produced by Axiom Strategies, a firm associated with Never Back Down, a Super PAC that, per the article, “has effectively taken over Mr. DeSantis’s presidential campaign.”
It mostly focuses on strategy for the first debate, which the group seems to believe Trump will not participate in.
Ron Desantis Strategy
“There are four basic must-dos,” the memo states.
“1. Attack Joe Biden and the media 3-5 times. 2. State GRD’s positive vision 2-3 times. 3. Hammer Vivek Ramaswamy in a response. 4. Defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack.”
Defending Trump would seem to be a curious strategy for DeSantis, the candidate who appears to be running in order to usurp Trump. It’s as though the criteria of the Republican primary race is that the winner will be the one who praises Trump the most. If it’s that, there’s one way anyone but Trump could win.
Furthermore, DeSantis is seen targeting Vivek Ramaswamy, who was nearly a complete unknown prior to the race, but who is right behind, or even slightly ahead in some polls of DeSantis, who looked at one point like a frontrunner or co-frontrunner.
It also shows a recommendation that DeSantis come up with a derisive nickname for Ramaswamy, like “Fake Vivek” or “Vivek the Fake” – a strategy of course pioneered by Trump on the debate stage in the 2016 primaries. Ramaswamy, for his part, did the same on social media after the Times report, referring to DeSantis as “Robot Ron.”
The Times also states that the main strategy memo that appeared “contains no mention of policy.”
Materializing a Memo
Even more head-scratching, however, is the circumstances under which the Times found the documents.
No, it wasn’t likely by a staffer or accidentally emailed.
In fact, the memo was posted openly on the Internet, on Axiom’s website, and the newspaper was “alerted to the existence of the documents by a person not connected to the DeSantis campaign or the super PAC.”
“Super PACs are barred by law from strategizing in private with political campaigns. To avoid running afoul of those rules, it is not unusual for the outside groups to post polling documents in the open, albeit in an obscure corner of the internet where insiders know to look,” the Times said.
“But it is unusual, as appears to be the case, for a super PAC, or a consulting firm working for it, to post documents on its own website — and in such expansive detail, down to the exact estimate of turnout in the Iowa caucuses (“now 216,561”), and including one New Hampshire poll with more than 400 pages of detailed findings.
The New Yorker, this week, looked at where DeSantis’ once-promising campaign went wrong.
“One theory circulating among politicos right now is that DeSantis simply waited too long to enter the race,” the New Yorker story said. “He did not announce his candidacy formally until May, and did so in a clumsy and widely mocked Twitter Spaces event with Elon Musk. But, whatever the reasons for the delay, it was also the case that DeSantis and his advisers had not solved a fundamental problem for the campaign: how to run against Trump.”
It also showed something fascinating about DeSantis’ focus group research:
“Even attaching Trump’s name to an otherwise effective message had a tendency to invert the results, this source said. If a moderator said that the covid lockdowns destroyed small businesses and facilitated the largest upward wealth transfer in modern American history, seventy per cent of the Republicans surveyed would agree. But, if the moderator said that Trump’s covid lockdowns destroyed small businesses and facilitated the largest upward wealth transfer in modern American history, the source said, seventy per cent would disagree.”
Author 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. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.
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