Leaked Documents Reveal Vulnerabilities and Strategy of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ Campaign

In recent leaked documents, it has been revealed that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is facing political vulnerabilities and is relying heavily on the resources of his super PAC, Never Back Down. The leaked strategy memo highlights DeSantis’ reputation for awkwardness and aloofness on the campaign trail, suggesting that he should “invoke a personal anecdote story about family, kids, Casey, showing emotion” to connect with voters.[0] The memo also advises DeSantis to “take a sledgehammer to Vivek Ramaswamy” and coin a Trump-style nickname for him, such as “Fake Vivek” or “Vivek the Fake.”[1]

Super PACs are legally barred from privately strategizing with political campaigns, but they often find loopholes by publicly posting their documents in hidden corners of the internet.[2] This allows them to avoid violating federal campaign laws that prohibit coordination between super PACs and the candidates they support. The leaked documents were posted on the website of Axiom Strategies, a political advisory firm owned by Never Back Down’s chief strategist, Jeff Roe.[3]

Vivek Ramaswamy, a political newcomer who is rising in the polls, has responded to the leaked memo, calling it another “boring, establishment attack” from the super PAC.[4] He criticized DeSantis for relying on pre-programmed attack lines and accused him of being controlled by donors to the PAC.

The leaked memo also provides insight into DeSantis’ debate preparation, advising him to “defend Trump when Chris Christie attacks him.”[5] It suggests that DeSantis should accuse Christie of appealing mainly to Democrats and not join forces with him on the debate stage. The memo outlines four “must-dos” for DeSantis, including attacking Joe Biden and the media, stating his positive vision, hammering Ramaswamy in a response, and defending Donald Trump in absentia.

The strategy memo also includes an elaborate script for DeSantis to position himself in relation to Trump.[6] It suggests that he should praise Trump as a breath of fresh air who stood up to the elite, while also noting that Trump faced constant attacks and distractions.[6] DeSantis is urged to conclude that he is the only candidate who can keep the Trump movement going.[6]

The leaked documents shed light on the financial struggles of the DeSantis campaign, as donors shy away. The super PAC, which raised $130 million in the first half of the year, is providing resources such as research on DeSantis’ rivals, strategic insights, and polling that are typically the responsibility of the campaign itself.[7]

In addition to Ramaswamy, the leaked documents also reveal vulnerabilities that DeSantis could attack in his opponents.[6] Ramaswamy is the only candidate about whom two separate documents describe vulnerabilities, including his past statements on abortion, immigration policy, and COVID-19 masks.

Private polling mentioned in the leaked memos also raises concerns for DeSantis.[4] His net favorability among Republicans has dropped significantly, and he is now tied with Ramaswamy and Tim Scott, the South Carolina senator, as the second-choice candidate.[4]

Overall, the leaked documents offer a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes strategy and challenges faced by the DeSantis campaign. As the campaign continues, it remains to be seen how DeSantis will address his vulnerabilities and navigate the political landscape.

0. “Ramaswamy dismisses ‘professional politician’ DeSantis after debate strategy revealed” The Independent, 17 Aug. 2023, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/desantis-debate-trump-ramaswamy-b2394937.html

1. “Ramaswamy hits DeSantis back, suggests he’s a ‘super PAC puppet’ after leaked memo hints gov’s debate attacks” FOX 35 Orlando, 18 Aug. 2023, https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/ramaswamy-hits-desantis-back-suggests-hes-a-super-pac-puppet-after-leaked-memo-hints-govs-debate-attacks

2. “GOP Debate Plan Advises Ron DeSantis to Adopt Low-Energy Insult for Vivek Ramaswamy” The Daily Beast, 17 Aug. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/gop-debate-plan-advises-ron-desantis-to-adopt-low-energy-insult-for-vivek-ramaswamy

3. “DeSantis Debate Strategy Memo Suggests He Defend Trump, Attack Ramaswamy And Avoid Policy Talk” Forbes, 17 Aug. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/saradorn/2023/08/17/desantis-debate-strategy-memo-suggests-he-defend-trump-attack-ramaswamy-and-avoid-policy-talk/

4. “Defend Trump and ‘Hammer’ Ramaswamy: DeSantis Allies Reveal Debate Strategy” Yahoo News, 17 Aug. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/defend-trump-hammer-ramaswamy-desantis-182252117.html

5. “Pro-DeSantis super PAC debate memo stirs anger and confusion from fundraisers and donors” CNN, 18 Aug. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/17/politics/desantis-super-pac-debate-memo/index.html

6. “DeSantis Advisers Urge Him to Stick With Losing Strategy in Debate” New York Magazine, 17 Aug. 2023, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2023/08/desantis-advised-to-stick-with-losing-strategy-in-debate.html

7. “Ron DeSantis campaign suffers another blow after debate memos published” The Guardian US, 17 Aug. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/aug/17/ron-desantis-republican-debate-memos-presidential-campaign

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