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DeSantis’ Campaign is a Complete Disaster

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Chaos, swearing, and fistfights, no, this isn’t an episode of The Real Housewives, it’s the unprecedented implosion of Ron DeSantis’ presidential bid.

As the clock ticks down to the Iowa caucuses, DeSantis’ campaign is tearing itself apart from the inside. On Wednesday, the head of DeSantis’ super PAC stepped down, representing yet another setback for the Florida governor’s struggling presidential bid.

What is happening to the man once seen as Trump’s heir apparent? Has DeSantis’ moment come and gone? Can he regain control of his campaign before it’s too late, or will his GOP opponents, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy take the lead? 

The head of the political action committee, or PAC, supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign has quit due to infighting within the group over plans for 2024. The resignation comes amid chaotic divisions regarding how to advance DeSantis’ White House bid going forward.

Chris Jankowski, an experienced Republican political strategist and the head of DeSantis’ political action committee , tendered his resignation letter to the board of directors of the Never Back Down super PAC, stepping down from his position immediately.

Jankowski said in a recently released statement: “Never Back Down’s main goal and sole focus has been to elect Governor Ron DeSantis as President. Given the current environment, it has become untenable for me to deliver on the shared goal and that goes well beyond a difference of strategic opinion. For the future of our country, I support and pray Ron DeSantis is our 47th president,”

Since DeSantis launched his presidential campaign in May, the Never Back Down super PAC has been integral, raising huge sums to function as an attack force and media powerhouse for the governor.

However, the group has been unsuccessful in enabling DeSantis to stand out from the pack of Republican contenders and emerge as the top rival to Donald Trump. Polling has shown DeSantis mired in a close race for second place, jockeying between Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy.

According to sources, tensions within Never Back Down had been escalating, culminating in a contentious meeting last week where a physical altercation nearly erupted.

During a board meeting last Tuesday, where the leaders met to hash out an action plan to fight Nikki Haley’s rise in the polls, Never Back Down’s lead strategist, Jeff Roe, got into a heated confrontation with longtime DeSantis ally Scott Wagner. The spat became so heated that the two men had to be held back from coming to blows.

Roe was said to have angrily lashed out at Wagner saying “You have a stick up your a–, Scott.” Wagner then stood up from his chair and challenged Roe, responding “Why don’t you come over here and get it?”

Before things could get physical, two other board members had to hold Wagner back. An anonymous source present in the room shared the explicit word-for-word quotes with NBC News.

While we might not know who the inside source is, one thing is clear as day now. The infighting clearly shows how desperate DeSantis’ inner circle has become over his campaign’s inability to seriously challenge Trump. Not only this, but DeSantis is now in danger of not even ranking in second place since DeSantis’ months-long decline enabled Nikki Haley’s rise. Her improving polls and mega-donor support is now posing a major threat to his campaign.

That could be the reason why DeSantis himself, as well as his wife, Casey have criticized the Never Back Down PAC. Although DeSantis and Casey are generally satisfied with its work, they reportedly felt the advertisements could be stronger and were growing dissatisfied with the group’s leadership.

Others highlighted concerns that the negative ads produced by the PAC could reflect badly on DeSantis who has become so closely tied to it. Having a new group that is less associated with him running the ads could have a better outcome for the Presidential hopeful. 

With this in mind, three of DeSantis’ closest confidants – David Dewhirst, Jeff Aaron, and Scott Ross – established a new and improved super PAC called Fight Right Inc just a few days before the argument broke out.

 it portrayed Fight Right as a positive new participant in the 2024 race, while still maintaining Never Back Down as a key ally.

A spokesperson for the campaign said “We are excited to see even more backers stepping up to support Ron DeSantis’ candidacy (…) We’ve already seen tremendous value in the support of groups like Never Back Down, and adding new allies to the mix to independently help spread the governor’s message will only strengthen our advantage in the important weeks and months ahead.”

However one insider privy to the deliberations shared that the launch of Fight Right represents “James taking over the money”. This could be why David Dewhirst – an advisor in DeSantis’ gubernatorial office until recently and a close friend of DeSantis’ campaign manager – is helping launch the PAC.   

The newly formed PAC, Fight Right Inc., has already reserved around $918,000 of ad time over the next week, with commercials scheduled to begin airing in important Iowa media markets on Thanksgiving Day.

The group has already released a new ad comparing Nikki Haley to Hillary Clinton, a sign that DeSantis’ campaign is preparing to take on the rise of his chief contender – Nikki Haley.

While the new Fight Right PAC could complement Never Back Down’s work, it may also end up competing with it for funding. This comes at a time when some donors are already questioning the high burn rate of DeSantis’ political machinery.

Additionally, the two groups could vie for limited airtime in Iowa’s crowded advertising market. Campaigns and outside organizations have already run over $75 million worth of ads in the state, with nearly $9 million more booked through January. This intense competition for voters’ attention could further complicate the dynamic between both pro-DeSantis groups.

Despite this, the formation of Fight Right Inc. could resolve a key issue that Never Back Down presented since the PAC could not continue attacking Haley without it reflecting on DeSantis.

This is an important achievement since even Never Back Down’s leaders concluded the ad spots were backfiring on DeSantis. Never Back Down’s branding “stuck like glue” to the candidate, making its Iowa ads largely ineffective according to focus group testing. 

It was against this backdrop of defeat and tension that the fight broke out during a set of strategy meetings.   

Needless to say, this infighting has only cemented the perception of disarray in DeSantis’ campaign. 

When he entered in May, DeSantis was seen as Trump’s top challenger, with Never Back Down promising a budget of over $200 million to support his campaign but in the 9 months since then, he has lagged in polling despite Never Back Down spending $100 million. With DeSantis falling far behind Trump in most polls and losing steam to Haley in early states, his campaign could even be drawing to a close.  

However, DeSantis’ imploding campaign raises questions beyond 2024. Some are beginning to wonder whether this a temporary setback or the end of DeSantis as a national contender altogether.  DeSantis’ decline also signals Trump’s bedrock of support within the GOP which could have far-reaching implications for the party.

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