DeSantis Allies’ $200 million plan to beat Trump

A key political group backing Ron DeSantis for president is preparing a $100 million voter outreach campaign so large that plans to knock it off Every likely DeSantis voter is in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina at least four times — and five times in the Iowa caucuses.

The effort is part of a field organizing effort that intends to hire more than 2,600 field organizers by Labor Day, a significant number for even the most well-funded events.

Top officials of the pro-DeSantis group, a super PAC called Never Back Down, have provided their most detailed battle plan to date to aid Mr. DeSantis, who they believe they can bring to justice. Selling – and winning – the 2024 Republican Party’s culture fight as the only candidate.

The group said it expects a total budget of at least $200 million, including more than $80 million transferred from old DeSantis political accounts to complete the push to push the Florida governor over former President Donald J. Trump’s daunting task. has established itself as an early leader.

Mr. DeSantis will enter the presidential race on Wednesday via a live audio conversation on Twitter, and the super PAC’s large cash hoard is expected to be one of the few advantages Mr. DeSantis has in the race.

The group has taken on many tasks usually left to the campaign itself: gaining endorsements in early primary states, sending mail, Organizations on Campus, running TV ads, raising small donations for campaigns in escrow accounts, and working behind the scenes to gather crowds for the governor’s events.recruitment is Conducted in 18 states Various coalitions are being planned to support DeSantis, for example targeting veterans or voters concerned about issues such as abortion, guns or agriculture, officials said.

“Nobody thought about the size of the organization or operation, let alone actually doing it,” said Chris Jankowski, the group’s chief executive. “It never even occurred to me.”

In Iowa, the group opened a boot camp on the outskirts of Des Moines. The facility, code-named “Fort Benning,” after an old Army training outpost, saw 189 graduates attend an eight-day According to the training plan, the first wave organized the army to follow. The knock will begin Wednesday in New Hampshire.

The effort echoes the “Camp Cruz” that Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign set up near Des Moines.

At the helm of DeSantis’ super PAC is Jeff Roy, a veteran Republican strategist who was Mr. Cruz’s campaign manager at the time. In an interview, Mr. Roe described an ambitious political agency whose 2,600 field organizers by fall will be roughly the peak number of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ entire 2020 primary campaign. twice the period.

Mr Rowe also previewed some of the contrasts the Never Back Down plan would have had with Mr Trump. He argued that Mr. Trump sidestepped the key fights that galvanized the Republican base and that Mr. DeSantis led, including on LGBTQ issues, schools and the fight against American business.

“How do you beat Trump?” Mr. Roe said, referring to Mr. DeSantis’ assertiveness on these cultural issues. “Well, you beat Trump by beating Trump. Ron DeSantis beat Trump by doing what Republican voters most wanted him to do.”

So far, Mr. DeSantis is steadily losing ground in 2023, trailing Mr. Trump in national polls 30 percent on averageAs the governor’s status declines, more and more candidates are entering the race, a growing field that could make it harder for Mr. DeSantis to unseat a former president who has a large base of support.

Trump’s spokesman, Steven Cheung, mocked the group for “always holding back,” calling it an “epic clown show.”

“If DeSantis campaigned in the same way as his super PAC, he’d be in for a jolt,” Chang said.

In planning the 2024 campaign, Mr Rowe acknowledged that Mr Trump has been “the leader of a movement”. But only Mr. DeSantis “has the opportunity to be the leader of the party and movement” in Mr. Rowe’s account.

“That’s a key distinction,” he said. “I don’t believe people fundamentally understand that you can be the leader of a movement but not your party. Ron DeSantis has the ability to be both. Trump doesn’t.”

That’s the line Mr. DeSantis articulated last week in a private conference call with donors organized by Never Back Down. He overstated the amount of money he raised for state parties, including in New Hampshire.

“At the end of the day, politics is a team sport,” Mr. DeSantis told donors, with an insinuation of Mr. Trump. “You know, some people are just raising money for themselves.”

Republican primary voters see the fight against the progressive left as an existential struggle, Mr. Rowe said. He argues that Mr. DeSantis, not Mr. Trump, is leading the fight on three touchstone issues: engaging with corporate America, engaging with what is taught in schools, and addressing the controversy surrounding sexual orientation and transgender healthcare. Changing norms and acceptance.

The governor’s conflict with Disney touched all three: The fight with a major company started as a classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary school. Mr Trump believes the Disney battle is futile and recently cheered the company when it pushed back against Mr DeSantis.

Mr. Roe added that the intensity with which Republicans feel their way of life is threatened makes electability an even more salient issue for the party in 2024, and also makes Mr. DeSantis’ ability to defeat those fights and still win in Florida so relevant. attraction.

“That’s a stark difference between the two candidates,” he said.

Unlike a candidate’s campaign committee, which must strictly adhere to a per-donor cap, there is no limit to how much money a super PAC can raise.

And this started with unparalleled financial resources. Never Back Down is expected to start with about $120 million — it’s said to have raised $40 million, with another $80 million from Mr. DeSantis’ old state political committee — a sum equivalent to Jeb Bush’s Total spending by super PACs in 2016.

But there are some legal obstacles to this financial freedom. Super PAC leaders are not allowed to discuss strategy with candidates or campaigns. Of course, if Mr. DeSantis disagrees with any super PAC’s decision, he can always speak out and urge them to change course.

As a result, the largest super PACs — entities that have only existed for the past 12 or so years — have often largely become stand-alone vehicles for buying expensive TV ads. However, this model is extremely inefficient. When the election loomed, the airwaves became chaotic, and candidates were guaranteed by law far lower rates than super PACs. That’s one of the reasons pro-DeSantis groups plan to spend so much on their on-the-ground programs, officials said, citing research showing that personal engagement with voters has a higher return on investment.

“It’s not that we won’t do TV, it’s just that it’s not all we’re going to do,” said Kristin Davison, Never Back Down’s chief operating officer. “We learned that peer-to-peer, neighbor-to-neighbor conversations and transitions are going to be extremely important in the first four states.”

Never Back Down’s strategists have been consulting lawyers and studying precedent to understand how far the group can expand the legal scope of what it can do without pushing any legal boundaries. An overlooked twist in election law is that super PAC advisers can work on campaigns, so it’s possible that Never Back Down’s entire division could finally join DeSantis’s campaign.

This close collaboration was on display during Mr. DeSantis’ recent trip to Iowa. After Mr. Trump canceled a rally near Des Moines, the governor decided he wanted to raid an event in the area at the last minute. But it wasn’t the governor’s staff scrambling to get people to the location, it was the super PAC employees who, along with Mr. DeSantis’ team, sent a barrage of text messages and phone calls demanding a crowd gather at Jethro’s barbecue that night.

“We had about 200 people show up at some local pizzeria or grill after about two hours’ notice,” Mr. DeSantis raved about donors on the phone, The New York Times heard .

Despite Mr. DeSantis’ public distaste for political consultants, especially those working near Washington, and the fact that he used to ask about the earnings of those who work for him, his team has named one of the Republican Party’s most prominent advisers to the Supervise Never Back Down.

Among DeSantis’ allies and rivals, Mr Rowe has become an unusual lightning rod.His aggressive approach to the campaign and business development has been a recent theme washington post article It details his firm’s efforts to extract more revenue, including from its political clients.

According to people who have discussed the matter with the former president, Mr. Trump himself is fascinated by Mr. Rowe, the only political adviser he regularly talks about. Advisers told him the story of Roe’s failed campaign so often that Mr. Trump had nicknamed him: “The Kiss of Death.”

This spring, Never Back Down has already spent more than $10 million on TV ads in support of DeSantis. The early spending has been the subject of speculation by some DeSantis allies because it coincided with a drop in polls. But Never Back Down advisers defended the ads, saying they were not just supporting DeSantis ahead of his candidacy, but part of a vast experiment — including emails, text messages and control groups — designed to study Which communication methods are not good for Trump.

Voters were surveyed before and after tens of thousands of interviews to determine the impact, officials said.

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