Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis began cutting campaign personnel just months into his presidential bid, as he struggled to gain traction in the Republican primary and lost ground in some public polls to former President Donald J. Trump.
The exact number of people let go by the DeSantis team was unclear, but a campaign contributor said it was fewer than 10. The development was previously reported by Politic.
The layoffs are an ominous sign for the campaign. It also highlights the challenges Mr. DeSantis faces with both her fundraising and his spending, at a time when a number of major donors who have expressed interest in him have become concerned about his performance.
An aide, Andrew Romeo, described the circumstances of the campaign in an optimistic tone.
« Americans are rallying behind Ron DeSantis and his plan to reverse Joe Biden’s failings and restore sanity to our nation, and his momentum will only continue as voters see him more in person, especially in Iowa. » he said in a statement. « Defeating Joe Biden and the $72 million behind him will require an agile, candidate-led campaign, and we’re building a movement to go the distance. »
The race is still in its infancy, and past campaigns have been reshuffled in the months before voting begins. Former Senator John McCain blew his campaign in the summer of 2007 before winning the Republican nomination. Mr. Trump has gone through three iterations in his blockbuster bid, though none came during the primary races.
Several top DeSantis fundraisers said the Florida governor is involved for the long term, with a focus on upcoming debates and contests starting in January.
But Mr. DeSantis’ moves are coming unusually early. And the fundraising numbers – filed Saturday – show a campaign it will need to make several adjustments, including travel schedule and staff size, if it is to regain lost momentum that has begun to fade months before Mr. DeSantis formally stepped in. in the race. The DeSantis campaign is also expected to make further changes, according to aides. Political speeches are expected, along with interviews with the kind of news outlets he has widely derided, as early as this week, according to two people familiar with the strategy.
Mr. DeSantis’ struggles seem to be not just about the numbers, but also about the message of the campaign. Late last week, it was announced that two top DeSantis advisers, Dave Abrams and Tucker Obenshain, would be leaving to join an outside group in support of DeSantis.
DeSantis’ campaign finance disclosures with the Federal Election Commission show he raised about $20 million but spent nearly $8 million, a so-called burn rate that leaves him with only $12 million in cash on hand. Only about $9 million of that money can be spent in the primary, with the rest counting towards the general election if he’s the candidate.
The filing indicated a surprisingly large staff for a campaign so early in a bid, particularly for one with a super PAC that has demonstrated how much load he’s willing to handle. More than $1 million in expenses were listed as « payroll » and payroll processing.
Mr. DeSantis’ top expenses included $1.3 million in travel expenses, including private jet charter services. The campaign also spent more than $800,000 each on digital fundraising consultancy, media placement, and postage. The campaign also paid nearly $1 million to WinRed, the online donation processing company.
Recent Republican primary races have been littered with examples of candidates with initial sizzle followed by significant fights. Scott Walker, who was the governor of Wisconsin, dropped out of the presidential race in September 2015 as he was racking up debt. Jeb Bush, one of Mr. DeSantis’ predecessors as governor of Florida and perhaps the biggest donor to the 2016 campaign, also began to lose his payroll amid the struggles, albeit much later in the race.
However, allies of DeSantis note that he is ahead in the polls in Iowa than Bush in the fall of 2015 and that he has a more natural constituency in Iowa than other challengers. The caucuses will be held on Jan. 15, 2024, and it’s the state where candidates looking to smooth over Mr. Trump have to fare well.
Rachel Shorey contributed reporting.