Struggling to Catch Up: Florida Governor's Media Strategy Reset as Donors Express Concerns

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  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 07/14/2023
The Florida governor's team is already looking for a potential media strategy reset as some top donors privately worry about the trajectory of the campaign, multiple sources tell ABC News. Only seven weeks into his 2024 presidential campaign, Ron DeSantis is struggling to make a dent in former President Donald Trump's commanding lead in the Republican primary.

DeSantis officially entered the race in May after receiving support from some more established Republican donor circles who believed he had the best chance of unseating the former president for the GOP nomination. He raised an impressive $20 million in the second quarter, but despite this and a string of early campaign missteps, he still trails Trump in national polls.

According to the average of national polls from FiveThirtyEight, DeSantis only lagged Trump in the country by a few percentage points in January. But since he entered the race formally in May, DeSantis has seen his deficit grow to almost 30 points.

The DeSantis campaign has been considering a change in media strategy amid that sluggish start, sources tell ABC News. DeSantis has largely avoided mainstream media outlets and has mainly stuck to more friendly platforms like Fox News and conservative news media, a trend that has caught the attention of Trump and his team, sources said. Candidates like former vice president Mike Pence and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie have made regular appearances on CNN and MSNBC as part of their White House campaigns.

Multiple sources claim that is about to change because the governor's team is leaning toward having DeSantis start appearing in town hall meetings and mainstream network interviews.

As evidenced by the fact that DeSantis' campaign was launched at an Elon Musk-hosted Twitter Spaces event, the company's CEO, who had previously expressed support for the governor, the move would represent a significant shift in strategy for the governor's team, who sources claim felt earlier in the year that DeSantis could afford to engage only with more friendly platforms and figures.

DeSantis' team has reportedly urged the governor to change his approach in recent weeks as Trump and his team have reportedly continued to criticize the governor for avoiding tougher interviews.

The potential change would occur a little over a month before the first Republican primary debate in August, which will be DeSantis' biggest chance to meet Republican primary voters and to cut into Trump's poll-top spot.

According to multiple sources who spoke to ABC News, DeSantis' early struggles to catch Trump have caused some of the Florida governor's wealthy donors to privately doubt DeSantis' viability as a presidential candidate while Trump is still in the race. According to sources, some donors have privately discussed delaying their contributions until 2028, or until Trump is no longer a candidate for president.

Hedge fund tycoon Ken Griffin, who initially indicated he would support DeSantis' bid for the White House, has reportedly grown increasingly dissatisfied with how the Florida governor's early campaign has gone after believing DeSantis to be the best candidate to challenge Trump in the primary, according to sources familiar with Griffin's thinking.

According to a source familiar with Griffin's thinking, Griffin has privately expressed to people close to him, including other major donors, that he is growing impatient with waiting for DeSantis to demonstrate progress as a candidate. Griffin reportedly "hit the pause button" on his support for the governor, according to a source.

When contacted about the potential change in media strategy or the worries of some donors, including Griffin, a spokesperson for the DeSantis campaign did not respond.

A Griffin spokesperson denied that the billionaire had stopped supporting DeSantis when questioned about it and instead reiterated that Griffin "continues to assess the field." Griffin was reportedly evaluating the field in April, according to the New York Times.


DeSantis is still the only candidate, in the eyes of many donors, who can defeat the outgoing president. Hal Lambert, a former Trump megadonor who now supports DeSantis, told ABC News that he hasn't heard any complaints from supporters about the Florida governor's current polling position.

People who are worried about these polls should know that, in Lambert's opinion, Trump's polling numbers aren't great. "What, fifty percent? You have a portion of the group who are not interested in you. His statistics ought to be much better.

The Florida governor's campaign believes that if DeSantis can begin to rise in the polls, perhaps after performing well in the upcoming debate, the billionaire will reconsider his position and "come back" to support DeSantis, according to sources.

According to a statement given to ABC News by Dave Vasquez, national press secretary for Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis, "$150 million was just raised to elect Gov. Ron DeSantis the next president of the United States." "That total is the highest of any candidate in this primary for a single quarter. The fact that we are not only outpacing the competition in fundraising, but we are also far ahead of them in terms of on-the-ground infrastructure, makes everyone challenging Gov. DeSantis very uneasy.

According to Never Back Down, supporters have pounded on more than 690,000 doors nationwide, including more than 7,000 in Iowa, the location of the first GOP caucus. The group claims to have 400 full-time paid canvassers working for them all over the nation.

According to sources who spoke to ABC News, some major contributors who had planned to back DeSantis have begun "shopping around" to other contenders for the Republican nomination, including meeting with people like Christie, Sen. Tim Scott, and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.

Lambert, however, claimed he is unconcerned. In regards to polling, Lambert predicted that DeSantis would improve. He isn't using his campaign to inflate polling results.

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