Ron DeSantis continues to shake up his flailing campaign with the demotion of campaign manager Generra Peck.
Peck will stay with the campaign, however, taking the role of chief strategist.
In contrast, James Uthmeier, who previously served as DeSantis’s gubernatorial chief of staff, will take over the campaign manager position.
The reshuffling of a campaign doesn’t necessarily signal that the campaign is in crisis. But in DeSantis’s case, the reshuffling indicates a campaign that is grasping for solutions amidst an aggressive downward trajectory.
“The move comes just weeks after the DeSantis campaign and close advisers insisted that Peck’s job was secure,” POLITICO reported, “even after the team shed a third of its staffers amid a budget crunch and concern about the direction of the operation.”
DeSantis’s team has recalibrated, in an effort to “scale back, build an insurgent operation, and do more mainstream media outreach.” But despite doing all of the above, DeSantis has remained stuck in the polls – a full thirty something points behind Trump, which begs the question: is the DeSantis campaign dead?
Greater context of DeSantis’s problems
The DeSantis campaign’s struggles are especially noteworthy given the candidate’s early hype.
Last fall, DeSantis was significantly ahead of Trump in the polls. DeSantis won the Florida gubernatorial election with a 20-point margin (to put that margin in perspective consider that Trump won Florida in 2020 with just a 5-point margin).
Meanwhile, Trump was at his nadir. His midterm candidates were almost uniformly trounced. He was embroiled in scandal. His polls were sagging. He looked like he might be dead in the water. And accordingly, DeSantis was being touted openly as the next GOP nominee.
But then DeSantis began to come back to Earth. He picked a petulant fight with Disney over the companies’ woke policies, leading portions of the pro-business GOP to malign DeSantis as being anti-business. DeSantis dug in, escalating the confrontation – and generally making his campaign (and his entire political identity) about being anti-woke. DeSantis became, in effect, a culture warrior – cheapening his candidacy, making him seem gimmicky (which he was) and shallow.
Trump meanwhile has enjoyed a full-throated resurgence – dominating the polls, dominating the news cycle. He appears immovable from his perch atop the GOP.
And most remarkably, Trump grows stronger each time he is indicted; with each indictment, Trump gains ground in the polls, leaving DeSantis further and further behind.
Ron DeSantis likely out of the race
My sense is that the 2024 campaign is lost for DeSantis. Trump’s lead is insurmountable – especially given that Trump’s numbers are immune to the sorts of gaffes and scandals (i.e. being indicted) that would sink the traditional presidential campaign.
So, if DeSantis is waiting for some catastrophic inversion point in the Trump campaign, the point is not coming. DeSantis will need to claw his way back into the race through internal revisions.
Can new campaign manager Uthmeier lead the way? DeSantis must think so.
“Uthmeier has been one of Governor DeSantis’ top advisors for years and he is needed where it matters most: working hand in hand with Generra Peck and the rest of the team to put the governor in the best possible position to win this primary and defeat Joe Biden,” said DeSantis spokesperson Andrew Romeo.
Uthmeier is going to have his work cut out for him.
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.