Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was ‘brutally honest’ about his lukewarm poll, said donors who attended his fundraisers this week and heard questions about his strategy to get past former President Donald Trump.
They said he remained confident about the campaign strategy and his path to the White House, despite the fact that in national and most state polls, DeSantis trailed Trump by double digits.
Polls and strategy
Aearly June showed Trump with a formidable lead, at 61% with likely Republican primary voters, and DeSantis at 23%. A St. Anselm poll of New Hampshire voters in late June showed Trump with a 28-point lead over DeSantis, with 47% of registered voters in the state choosing him and just 19% choosing DeSantis.
Participants in Tuesday’s fundraisers in Wisconsin and Illinois said DeSantis acknowledged the polling discrepancy, but argued the race was a “two-man” contest between him and Trump and argued that he was best positioned to win in the general election against President Joe Biden.
“He didn’t try to get away with it,” a donor said at a fundraiser on Tuesday. “He said, ‘Yeah, we (survey) in the 20[s]. It’s a good place to be right now, so soon. It’s about the states that matter,” one attendee recalled, telling DeSantis on Tuesday.
“His analysis is simple, which is that it’s July and no one is really paying attention right now,” said another participant.
“When you see the polls go up for Trump after he’s been indicted, that’s not a rejection of [DeSantis]it is a sign that people are very unhappy with the way the Democratic Party behaves when it is in power,” added this participant.
In a Truth Social article on Thursday, Trump gloated about the polls: “Dissanction polls get worse as the public gets to know him. Democrats would have a field day with Ron. He’s cold as ICE and only hurts the Republican Party. We have a 49 point lead, and we should be even better than that!!!”
While almost every poll in Iowa shows Trump has a good lead over DeSantis, “Never Back Down,” a super PAC backing DeSantis, says he has internal polls in Iowa that show DeSantis consistently leads. Trump in clear favor, according to a person familiar with the data.
In a campaign memo obtained by NBC News, DeSantis’ campaign wrote that “the state’s early voters are only weakly committed to the candidates they choose on such a remote voting issue — including many supporters of Trump” and that voters in their focus groups at the start of the primary states show that they do not plan to make up their minds before meeting candidates or seeing them debate.
The same memo claimed that Trump and DeSantis “remain the only viable option” for two-thirds of the GOP primary electorate, and that “although [South Carolina Senator] Tim Scott deserves a serious look at this point, his biography lacks the fight our electorate is looking for.”
“It’s no surprise that our campaign is relentlessly focused on early states while building infrastructure to go the distance – and thanks to our generous supporters, we have the resources to do it all,” the spokesperson said. of the DeSantis campaign, Andrew Romeo. said in response to a question on the memo.
The memo mentioned a tactic similar to one fundraiser attendees say DeSantis shared: throwing a lot of resources into the first two core states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
A DeSantis bundler who did not attend fundraising events this week called for a more intimate “retail policy” in Iowa and said bluntly, “Without a win in Iowa, there is no ain’t from New Hampshire.”
Other donors who attended DeSantis campaign fundraisers didn’t seem worried about his distant second place in the polls. It is still early, they said.
“I wish he was higher, but I’m not surprised he isn’t. So I’m not too worried at this point. If it was October, maybe I would be. “said Ernest Angelo, the former mayor of Midland. , Texas, which hosted DeSantis for a fundraiser in early June. “It’s very unusual [race]. If that was the normal campaign situation, where he had six or eight people vying for the nomination, I think he would definitely run away, but the Trump factor complicates that.”
Bob Grand, a Republican and influential Indianapolis lawyer who hosted DeSantis for a fundraiser on Wednesday, said the governor’s Florida record was the main point of remarks to about 130 attendees in Indianapolis.
“He’s been in the race for over a month and a half — I mean, come on, give people a break here,” Grand said. “He’s having good success with obviously these swings that he’s doing that are fundraising.”
“I think his message should continue to be, this is what we did in Florida, and these things we did in Florida are applicable in the United States,” he added. “It’s a state-by-state basis – we have time here to figure that out.”
The race for money
The DeSantis fundraiser in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, was organized by Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, Republican mega-donors who gave $500,000 to a PAC supporting DeSantis’ 2022 gubernatorial re-election campaign. participant estimated that about $1 million was raised at the three fundraisers in Illinois and Wisconsin on Tuesday.
DeSantis will hold fundraisers across the country through mid-August. Thursday will be in Aspen, Colorado, followed by stops in the coming weeks in Southampton, NY; Salt Lake City, Utah; Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee; Cape Cod and Nantucket, Mass.; Wichita, Kansas; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Kansas City, Mo., according to two people who received a copy of his fundraising calendar.
From DeSantisin late May, he held fundraising events in Texas, Nevada, California, New York, Pennsylvania, and several in his home state of Florida. DeSantis’ wife, Casey DeSantis, also headlined fundraisers in Illinois in late June.
DeSantis told donors on Tuesday that he would focus on his— and military background – in the coming weeks to create an indirect contrast with Trump, according to a fundraiser participant. His wife, Casey DeSantis, launched a mother-focused voter mobilization program earlier this month and appears frequently in fundraising materials.
First presidential debate
In his fundraisers this week, DeSantis also touched on the first presidential debate, scheduled for late August. He says he still expects Trump to attend, although Trump has said he won’t. Between fundraisers in Indianapolis and Cincinnati on Wednesday, DeSantis said on the Howie Carr radio show that “no one is entitled” to the nomination and that Trump “needs to step up and do” the debate.
“He expects Trump to be there, but he’s ready if he’s not. Either way, he’s ready to fight politics and not be bound by name-calling,” one said. participating in the fundraiser about DeSantis.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump skipped one primary debate and participated in 11.
Asked about recent donor comments, the DeSantis campaign remains confident. “You could line the governor’s residence with the number of premature political obituaries written on Ron DeSantis,” Romeo said. “Challenging the establishment is never easy – and this campaign to save our nation is going to be a long and uphill battle to defeat Joe Biden.”
DeSantis blames ‘media narratives’ when asked about lagging poll numbers
DeSantis’ message to donors at these private fundraising events overlapped with his responses to media questions about falling behind in the polls.
In interviews with conservative media, DeSantis blames “media narratives” for his below-average polling numbers, arguing that the media opposes the idea of him as a GOP nominee because he is the only candidate who can beat President Joe Biden in the general election.
He also dismissed national polls that show him trailing Trump because ‘we don’t have a national primary’ and said his campaign was building infrastructure in early Republican primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. .
“Over the summer, we always anticipated that we would do a lot of this hard work that might not be as newsworthy, but that’s ultimately what leads to a winning campaign,” a- he said on the “Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Radio Show”. Monday. “We are excited about the progress. We understand that there is still a lot of work to be done.”
“There are two candidates who can win the nomination, Trump and me. And I would say that I’m the only one who can win both the nomination and the general election,” DeSantis said on a podcast from Wisconsin on Tuesday.
DeSantis’ campaign says he raised $20 million in his first six weeks as a candidate, including $8.2 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign launch. Abacking DeSantis also says it has raised $130 million since launching in March. That includes an $82.5 million transfer from DeSantis’ state political committee coffers.
By comparison, Trump raised $35 million in Q2 fundraising through his official campaign and leadership political action committee, Save America.
The super PAC has invested $100 million in its door-to-door program for governor, and says it has 7,000 Iowans committed to caucuses for DeSantis on Jan. 15, 2024.
“Six months from the first caucus, Governor DeSantis is better positioned than any other candidate to go the distance, secure the Republican nomination, and send Joe Biden back to his basement,” PAC spokesman David Vasquez said. . “We are light years ahead of every other political operation, including Trump.”
Full campaign finance reports for funds raised April through June are due Saturday, July 15.
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