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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

The DeSantis Mess: Weird Video, Burn Rate, Rogue Super PAC

Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  The early stages of the 2024 race have begun.

Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman at NYT:

One recent move that drew intense blowback, including from Republicans, was the campaign’s sharing of a bizarre video on Twitter that attacked Mr. Trump as too friendly to L.G.B.T.Q. people and showed Mr. DeSantis with lasers coming out of his eyes. The video drew a range of denunciations, with some calling it homophobic and others homoerotic before it was deleted.

But it turns out to be more of a self-inflicted wound than was previously known: A DeSantis campaign aide had originally produced the video internally, passing it off to an outside supporter to post it first and making it appear as if it was generated independently, according to a person with knowledge of the incident.


 Second-guessing from political donors has intensified as Mr. DeSantis traveled this week from the Hamptons to Park City, Utah, to see donors. Records show the DeSantis campaign made an $87,000 reservation at the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Utah for a retreat where donors were invited to cocktails on the deck on Saturday followed by an “investor appreciation dinner.” It’s the type of luxury location that helps explain how a candidate who has long preferred to fly by private jets burned through nearly 40 percent of every dollar he raised in his first six weeks without airing a single television ad.

Super PACs cannot coordinate directly with a campaign.  But during the Citizens United era, they have taken their lead from the campaign's public statements.  As Karl Rove said a decade ago, " You can't coordinate with them. But you can play bridge."  It is extraordinary for a super PAC to disregard candidate signals and go rogue. 

That campaign memo landed at the pro-DeSantis super PAC’s Atlanta headquarters with a thud. It seemed to rebuke the super PAC, calling into question the group’s decision to stay off the airwaves in New Hampshire and the pricey Boston market. Legally, super PACs and campaigns cannot coordinate strategy in private, so leaked memos are one way they communicate.

“We will not cede New Hampshire,” read one line that appeared in boldface for extra emphasis. In a reference to Boston, the memo read, “We see no reason why more expensive markets in New Hampshire should not also be prioritized.”

 But the super PAC, which has studied the memo line by line, may be unmoved by the suggestions. “We’re not easily going to change our course,” said one senior official with the DeSantis super PAC who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about strategic decisions.

According to a person with direct knowledge of the process, the memo, first published by NBC News, was written by Ms. Peck, but without the input or knowledge of the broader campaign leadership team, an unusual move for such a highly scrutinized document.

The candidate himself soon made clear that he, too, wanted to see changes.

“I can’t control” the super PAC, Mr. DeSantis said recently on Fox News, before adding some specific stage directions. “I imagine they’re going to start lighting up the airwaves pretty soon with a lot of good stuff about me, and that’s going to give us a great lift,” he said.

Since then, the super PAC has not aired a positive ad about Mr. DeSantis or returned to the airwaves in New Hampshire.