DeSantis $50M Super PAC Shut Down, Donors Jump Ship
Ron DeSantis’ $50 million super PAC, “Ron to the Rescue,” is facing a swift and ignominious end. Mega-wealthy donors, once enthusiastic about supporting DeSantis’ bid for re-election, have now backed out, leaving the PAC in dire straits. John Thomas, the Republican strategist behind the PAC, has openly criticized DeSantis’ campaign for its amateur mistakes and has declared his allegiance to former President Trump.
One pivotal moment that triggered the loss of donor support was the botched campaign launch on Twitter Spaces. DeSantis was being interviewed by Elon Musk on the social media platform, but the feed repeatedly cut out, leading opponents to portray the campaign as incompetent. Thomas had anticipated a formal TV campaign of air support for DeSantis’ official launch, but the Twitter Spaces debacle shattered those plans. Major donors grew skeptical and decided to wait and see how the situation played out before committing any further funds.
Another critical misstep by the DeSantis campaign was the failure to provide compelling visuals and a clear core message. On his launch day, DeSantis did not provide video footage to television stations, depriving voters of a clear vision for the future. Instead, the campaign relied on the message of being “Trump without the drama,” which failed to resonate with the Republican electorate. Thomas characterized this messaging as lacking a spine and criticized DeSantis for not capitalizing on the opportunity to differentiate himself from Trump.
Thomas further lambasted the campaign for committing a series of “rookie s**t” errors. One such mistake was posting internal documents on the internet, which allowed opponents to criticize DeSantis as a “super PAC puppet” and question his independence from big donors. Additionally, DeSantis accepted a debate challenge from California governor Gavin Newsom, a move that Thomas viewed as belittling and beneath the dignity of a top-tier candidate. These blunders eroded donor confidence and further damaged DeSantis’ reputation.
As the super PAC’s viability dwindled, DeSantis faced another blow when one of his biggest donors, Robert Bigelow, announced that he would not contribute any additional funds unless DeSantis adopted a more moderate approach. Bigelow specifically criticized DeSantis’ support for a six-week abortion ban in Florida. This development, coupled with frustrations expressed by donors regarding DeSantis’ reliance on consultant Jeff Roe and his consulting firm Axiom Strategies, further undermined the campaign’s credibility.
In light of the mounting challenges and disillusionment with DeSantis’ campaign, Thomas and his donor network made a pivotal decision to shift their support to former President Donald Trump. Thomas, an early supporter of Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, recognized Trump’s campaign savvy and discipline, which he felt was lacking in DeSantis’ bid for re-election. The “Ron to the Rescue” super PAC is now in the process of regrouping and determining how to contribute to Trump’s campaign.
The demise of “Ron to the Rescue” and the loss of donor support raise serious questions about DeSantis’ political future. While his campaign communications director, Andrew Romeo, celebrated the closure of the super PAC as “welcome news,” it remains to be seen whether DeSantis can overcome the setbacks and regain momentum. Never Back Down, another super PAC supporting DeSantis, has raised a significant amount of funds, but the departure of major donors and the tarnished reputation resulting from the failed PAC could have lasting consequences.