Reports: Ron DeSantis Donors Having Second Thoughts About Backing Potential 2024 Bid

Governor Ron DeSantis listens to others during a news conference where he spoke of new law
AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

Donors are reportedly having second thoughts about backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in a potential 2024 presidential bid and are frustrated with the way he has handled a variety of issues over the last several months — from the flooding in Fort Lauderdale to abortion– as well as the way he has refused to go full throttle against the man who would be his top rival should he jump in the presidential race: former President Donald Trump.

Uneasiness has been bubbling as DeSantis continues to tap dance around direct questions regarding a 2024 presidential bid.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” DeSantis told one inquiring reporter in February when asked if he, like former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, would formally jump into the presidential race.

While the general public awaits a formal announcement, Republican megadonors are counting on it. However, the governor — as popular as he was throughout the coronavirus pandemic — is beginning to run into some issues with donors, who are growing more uneasy with the politician, per various reports citing complaints and concerns among major donors.

Rolling Stone, for instance, cites a group chat featuring many of these major donors — verified by the outlet — who expressed dissatisfaction with the way the governor has handled recent issues.

“What the fuck is wrong with RD?” one group member wrote, referencing DeSantis’s response — or lack thereof — to the major flooding in Fort Lauderdale. The governor was noticeably absent, traveling around the country and delivering speeches at the height of the historic issue. That week, he was in Ohio for the Butler County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day event and eventually declared a state of emergency for Broward County. He delivered a speech at Liberty University that same week and attended an event in New Hampshire, as well. Even former President Trump weighed in on his potential rival’s actions, telling Breitbart News, “He shouldn’t be campaigning right now. He should be there.”

According to Rolling Stone, one group chat participant wanted to know how to best contact DeSantis to “complain.” It also cites other complaints from these top donors, one of which included DeSantis referring to Ukraine as a “territorial dispute.”

“My understanding is that the message was: ‘If we wanted a fucking MAGA candidate, we would donate to Donald Trump,’” a source told the outlet, further demonstrating waning confidence in the governor, as others wish the governor would challenge Trump more directly, as well.

Per Rolling Stone:

Other donors have begged DeSantis’ close associates to convince the governor to stop being such a “damn wimp” — in the words of one DeSantis donor — with Trump, imploring him to hit back harder against Trump’s attacks, according to two donors to DeSantis. The governor is known for being stubborn and resistant to some of his allies’ calls for course correction, and he has insisted that he, strategically, knows best, people familiar with the matter say.

Since last month — and as recently as last week — the uneasiness among DeSantis’s megadonor base has only grown, the two DeSantis donors and two other pro-DeSantis sources familiar with the situation say. These sources spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the state of the proto-campaign.

And the collective unease is spilling out into the public. “Of course it’s not a secret.… I don’t even know if I’d call it an open secret anymore. It’s just something everybody knows about,” one longtime Republican moneyman and donor to DeSantis described to Rolling Stone, citing fresh “nervousness” and “panic” within the elite communities of DeSantis megadonors and high-profile backers.

Other GOP donors are more forthcoming with their complaints. Top Republican donor billionaire Thomas Peterffy, founder of Interactive Brokers, told the Financial Times that he has put support for DeSantis “on hold.” Others, he said, have done the same.

“Because of his stance on abortion and book banning . . . myself, and a bunch of friends, are holding our powder dry,” he said.

DeSantis, however, has spent significant time debunking the “book ban hoax,” holding a press conference in March overtly showcasing some of the material found in school libraries — some of which contained pornographic material that reportedly prompted some media outlets to cut their feeds during the presentation.

The governor has also refused to hide his commitment to pro-life issues and has continued to follow through, signing a six-week heartbeat legislation — with exceptions — this month.

Nevertheless, Peterffy — who gave $7.7 million to Republican campaigns in the last election cycle — believes DeSantis is losing momentum, despite stating months ago that he was “looking forward” to backing him.

“I am more reluctant to back him. 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,” he told the Financial Times.

Republican megadonor Ken Langone has similar concerns, also highlighting DeSantis’s move to sign a six-week abortion ban as an issue. According to MSN, he wishes DeSantis would “be a little more conciliatory” as well. Langone is also worried by what MSN described as the “resurgence of former president Donald Trump, who Langone previously backed but argues can’t win another general election.”


Ken Langone on FNC (Screenshot)

“It scares the hell out of me,” he said, speaking of Trump’s frontrunner status in the polls.

An NBC News report from March also demonstrated uneasiness among GOP donors, as they questioned DeSantis’s ability to challenge Trump — the leading candidate — as is indicated in virtually every recent survey. That report cited attendees of the annual Red Cross ball in Palm Beach, Florida, who discussed misgivings about DeSantis’s current standing. One warned that DeSantis could “get scarred up” by Trump.

That report also highlighted conservative billionaire Richard Uihlein, who gave $500,000 to DeSantis’s reelection campaign. According to the report, he and his wife are also pulling back.

“A person familiar with the strategy around Uihlein’s spending said that right now, ‘The brakes are pumped,’ adding, ‘The polling really made different people pause,’” NBC News reported.

One strategist told the outlet that DeSantis’s drop in the polls — even as he is “barnstorming the country” — is not a good look, either.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign is courting donors as well, urging DeSantis’s backers to switch lanes by sending them a three-page memo featuring polling from John McLaughlin, showing Trump’s dominant position in the 2024 presidential race.

As Breitbart News detailed:

The memo shows Trump leading President Joe Biden in a head-to-head matchup — 47 percent to 43 percent. The memo notes that the figures remain “virtually unchanged” from the March survey. In other words, the indictment had no negative effect, as other surveys have also suggested.

The memo also featured a chart listing several recent polls from the likes of YouGov, Trafalgar, Yahoo News, Fox News, Reuters, and more. In every poll listed, Trump leads the hypothetical 2024 Republican primary field with double-digit support. More specifically, the latest Reuters poll showed Trump up 29 points over DeSantis and the governor dropping into the teens.

“Any reputable poll now shows Republican primary voters are appalled, angry and are unifying behind President Trump in his nomination,” the memo reads, explaining that voters and reported donations to the Trump campaign are “increasing exponentially.”

“Now is the time to demonstrate your support and join” Trump, the campaign stated.

Even Donald Trump Jr. — who upped his criticism of DeSantis after the governor’s initial lackluster response to rumors of a Trump indictment — warned that DeSantis could eventually face the same weaponization of his father at the hands of these big donors and establishment class.

RELATED: Ron DeSantis Breaks Silence on Rumored Trump Indictment

Ron DeSantis / Rumble

Speaking about DeSantis’s response to Ukraine, Donald Trump Jr. said that the governor “sort of took a, like a weak Trump stance on it, you know, and then he was like, ‘Well, we must stop it. Putin is an evil dictator.’ You know, it’s like, holy shit. Your donors got to you.”

That is one key difference between Trump and DeSantis, the eldest Trump son pointed out: Trump is not beholden to donors nor the establishment class.

“Make no mistake, guys, like the donor class, even in Republican … they don’t have the same viewpoint as, like, the blue-collar … MAGA Republicans, right?” he warned.

“Trump doesn’t sort of look the same way. You know, DeSantis, who’s a, you know, career politician, like, guess what? He needs that money,” he said, noting that this could fundamentally influence DeSantis’s policy decisions.

“He needs that money again to further the goal … so he’s got to act. When they say, “Jump,” he says “How high?” he explained.” And that’s the nature of politics. It’s why they went after Trump so hard, in my opinion, because they don’t want other people who don’t need them in power, right?”

Nevertheless, Don Jr. issued a word of warning for DeSantis: The minute donors are done using him to take down Trump, he could be next.


“It’s easy when you’re trying to pit someone against Trump because they’ll do whatever they can to help you so you can take out Trump,” he said.

“When you’re the guy, that’s a whole different world. That’s a whole different story. And that’s the way you’re gonna handle it when they’re doing it, you know. Generally speaking, how are you gonna do when you’re in the big show?” he asked.

Recent polling continues to show Trump as the dominating Republican candidate both nationwide and statewide.

Former US President Donald Trump speaks at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, on November 15, 2022. - Donald Trump pulled the trigger on a third White House run on November 15, setting the stage for a bruising Republican nomination battle after a poor midterm election showing by his hand-picked candidates weakened his grip on the party. Trump filed his official candidacy papers with the US election authority moments before he was due to publicly announce his candidacy. (Photo by ALON SKUY / AFP) (Photo by ALON SKUY/AFP via Getty Images)

Former US President Donald Trump speaks at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, on November 15, 2022 (Photo by ALON SKUY/AFP via Getty Images).


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