Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been seeking to present himself as a saner alternative to former President Donald Trump while publicly picking fights over hot-button culture-war issues, but it appears he is failing to win over both MAGA die-hards and the GOP’s more moderate wing. According to the Financial Times, DeSantis is hemorrhaging support from the Republican donor class due to his radical stances on social issues. Tech entrepreneur and major GOP donor Thomas Peterffy, who as recently as January had said he was “looking forward” to throwing his weight behind DeSantis, stated, “Because of his stance on abortion and book banning… myself, and a bunch of friends, are holding our powder dry.”
Peterffy cited among his concerns the governor’s support for socially conservative policies on abortion and education, which the Financial Times described as “extreme.” He went on to say: “We are waiting to see who among the primary candidates is most likely to be able to win the general, and then put all of our firepower behind them.”
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal published a piece about DeSantis’s presidential campaign called “Ron DeSantis, Down in Polls and Taking Flak From Donald Trump, Looks to Rebound.” According to the article, DeSantis is refining his communication strategy to reassure key party members of his candidacy’s viability. He is getting ready to launch a fresh advertisement campaign that involves making harsher remarks about Trump. He also aims to portray himself as a family-oriented man who came from humble beginnings by introducing himself on a personal level.
However, DeSantis’s stance on social issues has been a source of concern for some GOP donors who fear his extreme views could harm his chances in the general election. His high-profile fights over books in Florida school libraries his administration deemed inappropriate and his signing of a law banning all abortions after six weeks in the state have been particularly controversial.
The Financial Times reports that Peterffy is not alone in his reluctance to back DeSantis. The governor is also reportedly facing opposition from a number of other Republican donors who are worried that his extreme views will alienate moderate voters and cause the party to lose the presidency in 2024.
DeSantis’s struggles to win over donors and party insiders come as the Republican Party is grappling with how to move forward after Trump’s presidency. Many within the party are torn between sticking with Trump’s brand of conservatism and trying to move in a more moderate direction that could appeal to a broader swath of voters.
As the primary season draws closer, it remains to be seen whether DeSantis can overcome his early struggles and win over enough support to become the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2024.
0. “Major Republican Donor Ditches DeSantis Over Abortion, Book Bans” The Daily Beast, 15 Apr. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/major-republican-donor-thomas-peterffy-ditches-desantis-over-abortion-book-bans
1. “Ron DeSantis campaign blow as top GOP donor Thomas Peterffy says plans to back him are ‘on hold'” Daily Mail, 15 Apr. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11977069/Ron-DeSantis-campaign-blow-GOP-donor-Thomas-Peterffy-says-plans-hold.html
2. “Big Republican Donor ‘And a Bunch of Friends’ Back Off DeSantis Over Culture War Politics: ‘Very Big Problem’” Mediaite, 16 Apr. 2023, https://www.mediaite.com/politics/big-republican-donor-and-a-bunch-of-friends-back-off-desantis-over-culture-war-politics-very-big-problem/
3. “GOP donor pulls plug on funding DeSantis over book-banning crusade: report” msnNOW, 15 Apr. 2023, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/gop-donor-pulls-plug-on-funding-desantis-over-book-banning-crusade-report/ar-AA19Umit
4. “Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign needs a reboot before it’s even started.” Slate, 14 Apr. 2023, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2023/04/ron-desantis-presidential-campaign-reboot.html