Lagging in Polls, DeSantis Sacks Campaign Staff

The Florida Republican’s presidential campaign reportedly was burning through cash.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the Tennessee Republican Party Statesmen's Dinner, Saturday, July 15, 2023 in Nashville, Tenn. George Walker IV/AP

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis raised $20 million in the first six weeks of his official campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. He had nearly 100 people on his campaign staff, and yet, he continues to badly trail the front runner, former President Donald Trump. Even in Florida, where DeSantis was reelected in 2022 in a blowout, polls show Trump beating him by 20 points. Those numbers appear to have prompted a Saturday night massacre this weekend. NBC News reported Saturday night that DeSantis had fired about a dozen campaign staffers yesterday to help cut costs as it became clear he was burning through far too much money to last the campaign, and without much to show in the way of results.

DeSantis donors seem unhappy with his progress. “Yeah, there are people grumbling about it, no doubt,” one unidentified donor told NBC. “There is an overall sense, including with me, that he just has not ignited the way we thought he would.”

Campaign finance filings released Saturday showed DeSantis with a bloated campaign staff relative to other GOP contenders. Trump reported 40 people on staff, while former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley reported 22. The DeSantis campaign is also suffering from a dearth of small donors. Campaign finance reports indicate that only 14 percent of his contributions came from small donors, who gave just under $3 million to the DeSantis campaign.

Trump took the opportunity to bash DeSantis on Saturday when he spoke at the Turning Point USA conference in Florida, where hundreds of young conservative activists had gathered and three members of Congress took to the stage to extol Trump’s virtues. He called the DeSantis campaign a “hopeless cause,” and complained that “DeSanctimonious and his establishment handlers are wasting precious resources to divide our party.” Trump called for DeSantis to go home and “do the job he was elected to do—be the governor of Florida.”

DeSantis had opted not to address the conference and instead spent the evening speaking to the Tennessee GOP. Still, the Florida governor might find some consolation in the latest campaign finance reports. While he’s losing to Trump, he is faring better than Trump’s former running mate and vice president, Mike Pence. Pence reported raising just $1.2 million in the second quarter, falling behind even former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

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