Ron DeSantis is trying to reassure donors and activists that his campaign only seems stalled.
TO confidential campaign memo obtained by NBC News lays out what the Florida governor’s presidential campaign sees as its way forward: focus on early states, refuse to give up New Hampshire, don’t invest in Super Tuesday battlegrounds yet, focus on biography of DeSantis and cast doubt on his competitors, particularly Sen. Tim Scott, RS.C.
“While Super Tuesday is vitally important, we will not dedicate resources to Super Tuesday that will slow our momentum in New Hampshire,” the memo states. «We expect to review this investment in the fall.»
The document, dated July 6, is labeled a «confidential update from friends and family» and makes it clear that it is «not for distribution.» His details on the campaign strategy go much deeper than what has been shared publicly.
With DeSantis’ ability to surpass former President Donald Trump as leader of the Republican Party now an open question among loyal Republicans, the memo is an effort by the governor’s top advisers to reach out to donors and provide them with more clarity on his path. to follow.
Throughout the DeSantis political universe, there is a heightened awareness of the importance of early states, and the reality that it will run dry without strong performances there. It means that although the group has a plan now, the strategy is subject to change.
“From what I understand, if we don’t see an increase in the polls, we’re basically going to shut down the idea of a national operation,” said an operative aligned with DeSantis.
The DeSantis team argues that Trump’s support is malleable. His release comes even as public polls show Trump is up nearly 25 percentage points. both in iowa and new hampshireand almost 20 percentage points in South Carolina – seen as make-or-break spots if DeSantis is to regain his position in the race.
“Early voters in the state are only mildly engaged with the candidates they select on a ballot question so far, including many Trump supporters,” the memo says. “Our focus group participants in early states even say they don’t plan to make a decision until they meet the candidates or see them debate.”
New Hampshire has long been viewed as challenging terrain for DeSantis’ fiery culture war-fueled rhetoric and abrasive campaign style, but the campaign insists on the memorandum that he «will not cede New Hampshire.»
“It should come as no surprise that our campaign relentlessly focuses on early states while building an infrastructure to go all the way, and thanks to our generous supporters, we have the resources to do it all. We are ready to win this marathon,” DeSantis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo told NBC News.
The memo comes at a time when DeSantis’s political orbit is for the first time having to respond to a heavy punch in the mouth. DeSantis rose quickly through the national political ranks to be dubbed «America’s Governor» by many conservatives, winning his re-election bid by nearly 20 percentage points. But now, Trump continues to bash him, leaving his political team playing defense to prevent an exodus of donors.
Meanwhile, Never Back Down, a pro-DeSantis super PAC that has pledged to spend $100 million on a nationwide effort to boost the governor, says it commits to both the state’s early strategy and a big investment in races in March, including the 14th state primaries on Super Tuesday, March 5.
While the campaign is focused on the early states, Never Back Down is preparing to insert 80 newly trained field operatives into California, according to Kristin Davison, the group’s director of operations. That’s on top of political advisers already hired in the first four calendar states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — and 17 states holding March primaries, according to the group. Pollsters have knocked on nearly 700,000 doors in six states, a set that includes the top four contests, Texas and North Carolina, super PAC officials said.
A Never Back Down official said it is executing on its long-standing plan to surge in later primaries while complementing the campaign’s work in early states.
But if DeSantis doesn’t perform well in the first couple of fights, the rest won’t matter.
“If you want to beat Trump, you have to run the table in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina,” said a veteran presidential campaign operative who is sympathetic to DeSantis.
Another Republican consultant familiar with the group’s thinking said California in particular is a focus. Not only does it have 169 delegates, the most of any Super Tuesday state, but there were polls going back to April that made them think there was an opportunity for big gains in the state.
The person compared the Never Back Down strategy to the volume of a radio.
“California is different. I think at the level of the first four states, the dial has always been turned up to the max,” the person said. “The dial in the Super Tuesday states may have turned down a bit, with the exception of California. I think both the super PAC and the campaign see it as something very important”.
The person said the change needs to happen because it’s clear to activists and donors that the current operation isn’t working. DeSantis needs to point out to them that he acknowledges this fact, before any future polls show him slipping from second place nationally or an early state, the person said.
The memo acknowledges that Scott is a potential rising threat, hinting to donors that he will face additional scrutiny from DeSantis allies in the coming weeks. It also rules out competition from businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
«While Tim Scott has earned a serious look at this stage, his biography lacks the fight our electorate is looking for in the next president,» the memo reads. “We expect Tim Scott to receive proper scrutiny in the coming weeks. We have found little to no interest in Vivek, Burgum and Nikki, while too many voters will not consider Pence and Christie to feel remotely viable.»
Comes as Political reported that some wealthy donors who looked to DeSantis as an alternative to Trump are now looking to Scott instead.
The document also outlines the message DeSantis’ team plans to deliver to voters through paid and earned media in the coming months. The campaign suggests that he has been more successful in presenting him as a father and a veteran to voters, and is planning an effort to expand his biography.
DeSantis plans to shift the focus from immigration and the border to a focus on solutions for the economy in July and August, along with foreign policy and China in August.
«More to come in Fall 2023…including military awakening, the deep state, school choice and more,» the memo added.
The first Republican presidential debate is also expected to dominate August. DeSantis has said that he will be at the event, though Trump has indicated that he probably won’t.
For some veteran Republicans, attempts to revive a campaign that has been drinking water since the day it launched in late May may already be too late.
“There needs to be a shakeup internally and externally, today,” said a GOP insider who has worked on presidential campaigns and is not aligned with any candidate at this time.