The apparent attempt by a super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to float potential debate talking points to the Republican’s presidential campaign has stirred confusion and anger from fundraisers and donors, multiple sources told CNN.
In a memo from the super PAC Never Back Down, first reported by The New York Times, DeSantis is advised to “hammer” entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and defend former President Donald Trump if he is attacked by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. It also included tips for how many times to attack President Joe Biden and the media.
One person close to DeSantis’ political operation was surprised a person at Never Back Down would even write a memo or think it was appropriate to give the campaign advice just a week out from the debate. The response this person received from Republican donors on Thursday was “a chorus of people who think it was dumb,” they said.
Never Back Down has not responded to requests for comment.
In response to the memo, DeSantis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo said, “This was not a campaign memo and we were not aware of it prior to the article. We are well accustomed to the attacks from all sides as the media and other candidates realize Ron DeSantis is the strongest candidate best positioned to take down Joe Biden.”
The memo was originally posted to the website of Axiom, a firm owned by Never Back Down consultant and veteran Republican strategist Jeff Roe, along with internal polling from New Hampshire, an assessment of the Iowa electorate and dossiers on how each candidate might attack DeSantis.
“I’m at loss,” the person said. “I don’t really know what the strategy was. Whoever thought it was necessary to put this out there, that’s not the super PAC’s job.”
It’s not uncommon for super PACs to find public ways around federal regulations that prohibit direct coordination with a campaign. But the directness of the memo coupled with the breadth of information posted publicly on Axiom’s website drew criticism from those working to help get DeSantis elected.
“I’m baffled by it,” another Republican fundraiser close to the governor told CNN.