Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun. The DeSantis campaign has been troubled. DeSantis is struggling in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Cash is scarce as the caucuses near. Never Back Down, which spent heavily to knock on doors in far-flung states like North Carolina and California last summer, canceled its remaining television ads in Iowa and New Hampshire on Friday, though new pro-DeSantis super PACs are picking up the slack.
Federal records show that, by the time of the Iowa caucuses, the DeSantis campaign is on pace to spend significantly more on private jets — the governor’s preferred mode of travel — than on airing television ads.
In Mr. Trump, the governor has also found himself running against a rival who filled the upper ranks of his operation with veteran consultants that Mr. DeSantis had discarded. The Trump team used its insider knowledge of his idiosyncrasies and insecurities to mercilessly undermine him, from his footwear to his facial expressions, starting months before he entered the race.
The first week of April — days after the first Trump indictment — all the top strategists involved in Mr. DeSantis’s soon-to-be presidential campaign gathered inside a conference room at the AC Marriott in Tallahassee. On one side of the table was the team that would eventually run his campaign, led by Ms. Peck. On the other were the operatives running his allied super PAC, led by Mr. Roe and the super PAC’s chief executive, Chris Jankowski. One person, David Polyansky, attended the meeting as a super PAC official but later became the deputy campaign manager.
Then there were the lawyers, patched in by phone to make sure the conversation did not veer into illegality. Federal law prohibits campaigns and super PACs from privately coordinating strategy but technically, at that moment, there was no formal Ron DeSantis presidential campaign. A goal of the April 6 gathering, which has not previously been reported, was to establish what the DeSantis team called “commander’s intent” — a broad vision of responsibilities in the battle to come.
The two sides even exchanged printed memos about hypothetical divisions of labor in a would-be 2024 primary. The upshot: The campaign would focus on events in the early states, and the super PAC would organize March contests, and invest in an unprecedented $100 million ground operation across the map. The super PAC was also expected by the DeSantis team to raise huge sums from small donations online, and direct them to the campaign. That program would go on to raise less than $1 million.
The close ties between Mr. DeSantis’s campaign and Never Back Down have already prompted a formal complaint from a watchdog group that accuses the relationship of being a “textbook example” of coordination that is illegal under campaign finance laws.