‘De facto favorite’: DeSantis’ $200 million haul positions him for 2024 race

Between his direct campaign and the aligned political committee, donors large and small have given DeSantis more than $200 million towards his re-election bid, a staggering amount that is likely the highest by any gubernatorial candidate. of American history.

DeSantis used the avalanche of cash to bury Democratic opponent Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor whose $31 million raised would put him in good shape in most competitive gubernatorial races across the country. But against DeSantis, Crist’s $31 million left him unable to compete adequately.

DeSantis has more than $90 million left in the bank after spending about $100 million in total this election cycle on his re-election bid through his aligned committee and campaign. The huge sum is fueling speculation that the Florida governor, who cannot run for a third term, will use it to seed the early stages of a potential White House bid in 2024.

“If you look at where the money is coming from, it indicates that Governor DeSantis is viewed by domestic donors as the de facto frontrunner for the president,” said Slater Bayliss, a longtime Republican lobbyist from Florida who supports DeSantis. .

The DeSantis campaign, which also speaks for the aligned committee, did not return a request for comment.

Beyond the $10 million check from Bigelow, who did not return a request for comment, DeSantis received two checks for $5 million from investor Ken Griffin, who recently moved his hedge fund Citadel LLC from Chicago to Miami. The Republican Governors Association also gave DeSantis $20 million, and the Florida governor got $3 million from state taxpayers through Florida’s public campaign finance program. These four alone gave his campaign more money than Crist was able to raise during the entire election cycle. Crist is also considered one of Florida’s top political fundraisers.

DeSantis’ politics and dynamic style of government, coupled with domestic donors who are beginning to gravitate towards DeSantis rather than former President Donald Trumpsparked national interest from big GOP donors and small, grassroots-type contributors to give to the Republican governor, Bayliss said.

“I think people on the left don’t think their candidates are selling out, and on the right we think ours have made deals and are more pragmatic,” he said. “The whole mark of former President Trump on the Republican side was that he wasn’t selling.”

“Governor. DeSantis built on that,” he added, “and is taken more seriously by many Republican donors.

Other governors who have made massive runs in recent election cycles include self-financiers like Meg Whitman, whose $176 million in the 2010 California gubernatorial campaign included $144 million of her own money. Illinois Democratic Governor JB Pritzker almost entirely self-funded his $176 million campaign in 2018 and his $133 million re-election bid.

Texas Republican Greg Abbot, meanwhile, has raised $116 million for his 2022 re-election bid. But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke — who has edged him since the summer — has forced Abbott to outspend his opponent by far. Now Abbott finds himself with less cash than O’Rourke for the second straight reporting period, with his coffers hitting a nearly two-decade low.

“It has long been said that ‘money is the mother’s milk of politics,'” said longtime Florida Republican consultant David Johnson, former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. “The DeSantis team has built a national farm-to-table dairy operation in just four years. We have seen large scale, networked donor operations work in the past, to great effect.

“Team DeSantis is most notable because they’re small, fierce, and rake in big bucks,” he added.

The DeSantis-aligned committee and his campaign have spent more than $100 million since 2018. During that time, DeSantis has helped fund more than $65 million in television ads through his committee and the Republican Party of Florida, a number that could also break records as his campaign and committee continue to fill the airwaves with TV spots leading up to Election Day. Previously, the most-spent TV ads were $73 million during former Governor Rick Scott’s re-election bid in 2014.

DeSantis, who has at least one contribution from all 50 states, is comfortably up in public polls, and Republicans have dominated the pre-election voting period. That means he’s likely to cruise to victory and doesn’t need to drastically cut the roughly $90 million he still has in the bank.

Sam Ramirez, a spokesman for Democrat Charlie Crist, who is challenging the Florida governor, said their campaign “raised $30 million from hundreds of thousands of local donors.”

“Unlike Ron DeSantis, our campaign is supported by the people, not the billionaires and corporate donors,” he said.

Florida’s governor has brushed off questions about his potential presidential aspirations, but his actions in recent months have done little to downplay the lingering sentiment that he is planning a 2024 race, creating a potential clash with Trump, who is expected to widely run for the White House.

DeSantis has also focused on helping Republicans in other states this election cycle, including recently campaigning for Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin and cutting a TV ad for the senator. Utah Republican Mike Lee. Throughout the midterm, DeSantis organized rallies for candidates in key states such as Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, offering his conservative influence to Republicans in difficult races, while developing an early network. national policy.

“Florida is a law and order state. I am a governor of law and order. If Lee Zeldin takes office, New York will become a state of law and order,” DeSantis said at a recent campaign event in New York for Zeldin.

Marissa Martinez contributed to this report.

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