Dem 51
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GOP 49
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DeSantis Has a Donor Problem

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is exceptionally dependent on big donors, especially those who have businesses that he can affect using his powers as governor of Florida. He has relatively few small donors because not many people love him enough to send him money. They will vote for him over a second-hand turncoat like Charlie Crist, but sending money is a bridge too far. Now the big donors are closing their checkbooks and he has a big problem.

Former Illinois governor Bruce Rauner (R)—who is not in prison, unlike many other former Illinois governors —used to be a big DeSantis supporter. He is a wealthy former private equity executive who gave almost $1 million to DeSantis' reelection campaign. As a big donor and also an experienced politician, he can smell a campaign in trouble a mile away. He is not giving DeSantis any more money.

He's not the only one. Politico has done some digging and discovered that of the 50 donors who gave at least $160,000 to DeSantis' reelection campaign, only 16 (less than a third) have donated to DeSantis' super PAC Never Back Down, where unlimited donations are allowed. That's not exactly a vote of confidence, especially since DeSantis badly needs the money right now.

Worse yet, five of the 50 are actively supporting rival GOP candidates. And of the 16 who are supporting DeSantis' presidential run, five of them are spreading the money around, betting on multiple horses at the same time to maximize their chances of hitting the jackpot. That means that only 11 of the 50 (22%) are supporting only DeSantis. Big donors almost always understand return on investment really well, and these big donors don't see DeSantis delivering.

Some of DeSantis' former donors have gone further than simply not donating. They have made a public announcement of their non-donations. That is not only a financial hit, but also humiliating to DeSantis. Robert Bigelow, by far the biggest donor to the super PAC, announced that he is not going to donate any more until DeSantis becomes more moderate. That is not going to happen, so Bigelow isn't going to pony up any more cash. Ken Griffin, donor #2, also said he's had it with DeSantis. Thomas Peterffy, who gave DeSantis' reelection campaign $3.6 million, has also reached his limit with the governor. Walter Buckley, who was DeSantis' 10th biggest donor in 2022, just gave $500,000 to Chris Christie.

Much of the problem is DeSantis' decision to sign a 6-week abortion ban. The evangelicals may eat that up, but big donors tend to lean libertarian and libertarians don't like Big Government mucking around in people's personal lives. A Republican fundraiser who is helping DeSantis, Roy Bailey, is putting on a brave face. He said, of the candidate: "No amount of political contributions could erode his core values." Right. DeSantis is a principled politician for whom money plays no role. Got that? (V)

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