Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign has laid off about a dozen employees — and more are expected in the coming weeks as he turns his big-money political operations after less than two months into the campaign.
A family source described those fired to NBC News as mid-level employees in various departments whose departures were related to cost cutting. The departures come after the departures of David Abrams and Tucker Obenshain, veterans of DeSantis’s political orbit, which were first reported by political.
Sources involved in DeSantis’ campaign say there’s an internal assessment among some that they hired too many staff too soon, and despite raising $20 million in their first six weeks, it became clear their costs needed to be cut.
Some in DeSantis’s political orbit are laying the initial blame at the feet of campaign manager Generra Peck, who also led DeSantis’ 2022 midterm re-election bid and is in the dock right now.
“It should be,” said a DeSantis donor.
«They never should have attracted this many people, the consumption rate was too high,» said a Republican source familiar with the campaign’s thought process. «People warned the campaign manager, but she didn’t want to hear any of it.»
“DeSantis stock is not rising,” the donor added. “Twenty percent is not what people signed up for.”
The person noted that DeSantis has a penchant for changing personnel, which means he doesn’t have a core team that has worked together before. DeSantis had three different campaign teams for each of his three congressional runs, and notably, he had a major campaign shakeup during his first run for governor in 2018.
“Americans are rallying behind Ron DeSantis and his plan to reverse Joe Biden’s failures and restore sanity to our nation, and his momentum will only continue as voters see him more in person, especially in Iowa. Joe Biden and the $72 million behind him will require a nimble, candidate-driven campaign, and we’re building a movement to see it through,» DeSantis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo told NBC News.
DeSantis’ campaign had 92 people on the payroll for at least one period of time during its first fundraising period, according to campaign financial reports filed Saturday with the Federal Election Commission. It’s by far the most of any Republican presidential candidate, and it has left his campaign with huge payroll expenses and, new documents show, fewer resources than originally thought.
DeSantis has $12 million in the bank, but of that $3 million can only be used during the general election. And about $14 million of its second-quarter haul came from donors who gave the legal maximum amount. In other words, roughly two-thirds of his early donors won’t be able to donate directly to his campaign during the race.
Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis super PAC, has said it will spend up to $200 million to boost the governor’s White House bid and has a significantly larger staff than the official campaign.
The timing of the potential reset comes ahead of a national finance committee meeting for DeSantis’s campaign on Sunday in Tallahassee, which will bring together campaign insiders as they try to figure out how to participate in Trump’s massive GOP primary advantage.
The event will include a briefing at campaign headquarters in Tallahassee followed by a barbecue at the governor’s mansion, according to an invitation reviewed by NBC News.
DeSantis has been unable to make up ground against Trump after nearly two months as the official candidate. That stalemate is starting to frustrate some supporters, who want a shakeup of the campaign, which is run on a day-to-day basis by Peck and Ryan Tyson, a longtime Republican pollster from Florida.
“Yeah, there are people who are complaining about it, for sure,” said a DeSantis donor. «There’s a general feeling, even with me, that it just hasn’t turned on the way we thought it would.»
The person said he believes DeSantis’s inner circle underestimated how difficult and costly it would be to break control of the Republican base from Trump, who has a commanding lead and is seen as the overwhelming favorite. Even in Florida, a state that re-elected DeSantis by nearly 20 percentage points just seven months ago, Trump now has his own 20-point lead over DeSantis, according to a Florida Atlantic University poll released last week.
The shakeup could include the revival of Phil Cox, the veteran Republican operative who helped run DeSantis’ 2022 re-election campaign and served as a Never Back Down adviser before leaving that role at the end of May.
Cox is in Tallahassee for the national finance meeting but has no formal role in the campaign, a source close to NBC News told.
DeSantis has noted that she is aware that his campaign did not start the way he wanted it to, but she has largely blamed it on media coverage and other external factors.
To try to get his focus back, his campaign is doubling down in early states, especially Iowa, whose first-in-the-nation nominating contest is now seen as a crucial marker. If DeSantis wins, the field will narrow and he’ll be closer to the one-on-one matchup with Trump that he wants. But losing the key state would likely further cement Trump’s status as the unbeatable leader.
That assessment was outlined in a confidential internal memo NBC News obtained Friday that outlines the campaign’s strategy to regain its footing. The memo indicated there would be a strong focus on early states where DeSantis advisers say Trump supporters can be won over.
“The state’s early voters are only mildly engaged with the candidates they select on a ballot question so far, including many Trump supporters,” the memo reads. “Our focus group participants in early states even say they don’t plan to make a decision until they meet the candidates or see them debate.”
Never Back Down is bolstering those efforts, focusing both on early states and a handful of Super Tuesday states, most notably California, where the group is expected to hire about 80 organizers in the near future.
However, for some supporters, there are now three keys to DeSantis remaining viable: Iowa, Iowa, Iowa.
“They need to treat it like it’s all that matters right now,” the DeSantis donor said. “If Trump wins, he’s done. It means that he needs to be there a lot. He needs to do all the retail politics he can.»
The person said DeSantis’ wife, Casey, is a great asset when doing the kind of retail politicking necessary to win Iowa, but DeSantis himself needs to improve.
“He needs to find that team,” the person said. «He needs to find it fast.»