Super PAC emerges to encourage DeSantis to run for president

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis may be playing coy on his presidential intentions, but a new super PAC has been formed to give the idea some oxygen and serve as his surrogate campaign until Florida governor make it official.

“Ron to the Rescue,” is the name of the independent political action committee organized by California political strategist John Thomas, a Trump supporter who shifts his support to DeSantis because he says he is “the future of the left”.

“As much as the people in the party still love Trump, they love winning more,” said Thomas, founder and president of advertising and political consulting firm Thomas Partners Strategies.

He acknowledged that the move would be seen as fueling the growing feud within the Republican Party between Trump and his base and a growing group of big donors and party leaders who want DeSantis to run. But, Thomas said, the catalyst for that effort was the poor performance of Trump-backed candidates in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

“If you’re a Trump supporter, I think it’s fair to say that Trump was not a net positive” in the midterm elections, Thomas said in an interview on Saturday. “He has added no value to the general election candidates in these various states, and perhaps, at worst, has unseated them.”

The super PAC announcement comes just days before Trump was scheduled for a “major announcement” at his Palm Beach mansion, Mar-a-Lago, on Tuesday. He is expected to officially announce his re-election to the presidency in 2024 and signaled that he sees DeSantis as his main rival.

Last Thursday, Trump unleashed a tirade against DeSantis, calling him an “average Republican governor with great public relations” and accused him of “playing games” on a possible future presidential bid.

Thomas said Trump’s early attack on DeSantis was “pardon” from a candidate who “never bothered to attack.” But, Thomas said, for Trump who “expected a coronation, it’s an admission that he thinks the governor is a political threat.”

Brought on by mid-term losses

Thomas said he originally organized the super PAC last summer because he saw DeSantis as the party’s new rising star. But, after the Justice Department’s raid on Mar-a-Lago over classified documents and the surge in support for Trump, he decided to put super PAC plans on hold and urge DeSantis to wait until 2028 to run for president.

He said he gave himself one condition, however, that he would reconsider whether the the midterms showed Trump’s support waning among the Republican base. On Wednesday morning, he said his phone was “exploding” with angry and frustrated Trump supporters over Tuesday’s midterm elections.

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But unlike earlier this year, the coalition emerging in favor of DeSantis last week was broader, Thomas said.

“What was really surprising was not just the original people who were pro-DeSantis, but our band was populating with people who looked a bit like me. We are not “Never Trumpers”. We’re actually quite pro Trump. We just want to win.

Thomas said he plans to announce the list of donors within the next two weeks, launch with a seven-figure budget, raise unlimited amounts of money from businesses and individuals, conduct surveys and to handle media inquiries until DeSantis officially opens a presidential campaign. He hopes that will happen after DeSantis’ inauguration in January 2023.

Under federal campaign finance law, super PACs are not allowed to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates. But Thomas said he was “in pretty close contact with his campaign people, even if it’s not sanctioned by them.”

The DeSantis campaign did not respond to a request for comment. The governor raised nearly $200 million during his gubernatorial run as he used his growing national stardom to raise funds across the country. He is expected to have up to $70 million left over that he could funnel into a federal campaign.

GOP “civil war” coming

Thomas said he expects a rivalry between Trump and DeSantis “to get nasty” as the former president demands loyalty from his supporters while many party members want to distance themselves from him.

“It will become a civil war, and it is inevitable. Trump is not going to go quietly into the night,” he said. “The former president is known to be vindictive against people who challenge him. But the time has come to pass the hammer and it’s very clear that DeSantis is the one who can win and the former president is not.

He noted that DeSantis’ landslide victory in Florida “took Florida from a swing state to a red state to sweeten the pot,” but that was not the deciding factor in reviving the political committee.

“We believe DeSantis is the future of the party that can build the necessary coalitions, especially with white college-educated women, Latinos and those critical groups,” he said.

He cited a post-election poll by YouGov America that showed DeSantis with a seven-point lead over Trump among GOP voters nationwide in a 2024 primary game.

Thomas said DeSantis must now part ways with Trump while assuring his supporters that he is not betraying the movement.

“Breaking up with Trump is like ending a dysfunctional relationship,” he said. “You still love each other but you realize it might be time to move on.”

While Trump may have “done DeSantis,” the governor used his perch as leader of the nation’s third-most populous state to execute COVID policies that were more popular than Trump’s, Thomas said.

Thomas said his organization will “breadcrumb his way” by praising Trump for having “a spine of steel, refocusing the Republican Party’s voter agenda, and appointing a group of fine judges. , etc. But we have to appreciate him as a veteran of the party, and less of a party leader.While we are very grateful for Trump’s service, it’s time to move on.

Thomas joins several political consultants in suggesting that DeSantis will need to make an announcement sooner than he wants in order to soften the impact of Trump’s attack and win over the MAGA base.

“The risk he runs is that the Republican base will lick their wounds and forget what happened midterm and just get behind the media frenzy that Trump is creating,” he said.

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