Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the start of 2023 looked like a plausible challenger to former President Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, especially following his landslide re-election win in 2022. However, little this year has gone as planned for the Florida governor. He was seen as a solid conservative with considerable fundraising prowess.
His launch, on then-Twitter, was a glitch-plagued disaster, while numerous stories have shown DeSantis stumbling on the campaign trail. Polls have continued to show DeSantis way behind the former president, while DeSantis has failed to make up ground in the GOP presidential debates.
Now, his top donor may be jumping ship.
According to the Financial Times, Robert Bigelow, a real estate investor from Nevada, is “considering switching his support to Donald Trump.” Bigelow gave $20 million to the Florida governor’s campaign earlier this year.
Bigelow made clear his second thoughts in an on-the-record interview with FT, which is not something that major political donors typically do.
“I’ve got to look at who would probably be the strongest commander, with the most experience . . . And that’s only one guy,” Bigelow said, about Trump.
“Who would you want as a commander? I’d want somebody that would be a hell of [a butt] -kicker if he needed to be,” he added in the interview. “On the face of it, you lean toward Trump.”
Bigelow went on to compare Trump to a “bull,” and DeSantis as “dinner.”
“I think Trump is too strong,” the donor added. “I think Trump has the momentum and inertia to beat him.”
The latest Morning Consult poll, released on Tuesday, showed Trump leading DeSantis by nearly 50 points. Trump has 63 percent support, while DeSantis remains in second place with 15 percent. Nikki Haley is in third place with 8 percent, followed by Vivek Ramaswamy with 7 percent. Chris Christie is at 3 percent, Tim Scott is at 2 percent, with Asa Hutchinson and Doug Burgum polling at zero.
The poll also had Trump leading President Biden by 2 percent in a hypothetical general election contest.
The remaining candidates, minus Trump, clashed Wednesday night in the third Republican presidential debate of this cycle. With Trump no-showing, Mike Pence dropping out of the race, and other candidates not cutting this time, there were just five people on stage — DeSantis, Haley, Ramaswamy, Scott, and Christie.
The candidates took various shots at one another, including Haley calling Ramaswamy “scum” after he referenced her daughter’s TikTok account.
Haley, meanwhile, called the Florida governor “a liberal when it comes to the environment,” which on a Republican debate stage counts as an insult. Haley was referencing DeSantis’ opposition to fracking.
DeSantis and Haley also argued over China.
“Yes, I brought a fiberglass company 10 years ago to South Carolina. But Ron, you are the chair of your economic development agency that as of last week said Florida is the ideal place for Chinese businesses,” Haley, the former South Carolina governor, said during the debate.
“I abolished that agency that she’s talking about. We abolished it and of course, we banned buying the website, banned them from purchasing in Florida,” the Florida governor said in response to Haley’s accusation.
Trump, meanwhile, skipped his third straight debate, and hosted his event elsewhere in South Florida, as reported by the Miami Herald.
“The Great Silent Majority is rising like never before—and under our leadership, the Forgotten Men and Women Will Be Forgotten No Longer!,” the former president said on Truth Social Wednesday night, over a picture of the rally in Florida. “We are ONE movement, ONE people, ONE family, and ONE GLORIOUS NATION UNDER GOD! And together, WE WILL MAKE AMERICA POWERFUL AGAIN.”
Author Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist film critic, and 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 X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.