Ron DeSantis is planning a campaign reboot as he struggles to close the gap with Trump

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign is planning a reboot, top campaign officials said, with a significant shift in messaging, events and media strategy.

Expect less grand speeches and more handshakes at diners and churches.

There will be more of a national focus than constant Florida references.

And the mainstream media may start to have more access.

In short, DeSantis will run as an insurgent candidate rather than an incumbent governor.

“Ron DeSantis has never been the favorite or the favorite of the establishment, and he has won because of it every time. No one in this race has been more criticized and beaten than Governor DeSantis. He is ready to prove them again. Buckle up,” DeSantis campaign manager Generra Peck said in a statement to NBC News.

Campaign filings show the DeSantis campaign needs to figure out how to raise more money and spend less. Last week he laid off a dozen employees. Donors and allies are pushing for change. Survey numbers are stagnant. And the rival GOP presidential candidates smell blood in the water.

“Downright low” is how a source who was present when the employees were laid off described morale these days.

“The whole campaign is on edge,” the person said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The reboot is remarkable for a candidate who was perhaps the most anticipated GOP entrant in the 2024 race. While DeSantis has maintained his second-place finish in the polls, he has been unable to close the gap on the front-runner, former Pres. donald trump

But the hurdles remain significant and it is unclear whether it is too late to reverse the early stumbles. While some candidates have successfully pivoted after rocky starts, the presidential campaign is littered with candidates who ultimately failed to regain momentum.

Simpler and more intimate campaign events

DeSantis’ campaign finance report showed some glaring warning signs.

Although he raised more than $20 million from mid-May to late June, more than any other GOP presidential candidate, more than two-thirds of that money came from donors who gave the legal limit and did not they can give again. It also spent about 40% of what it raised, with 92 people on the payroll.

Other candidates, including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and even Trump, had higher spending rates than DeSantis. But with less cash in the bank ($12.2 million to Trump’s $22.5 million) and the high number of top donors, solvency became a real issue.

The full extent of the campaign’s dire financial picture became clear to the wider team just after the June 30 quarter-end reporting deadline, said two sources familiar with the situation, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to share information on behalf of the campaign.

The campaign delayed paying some of its outstanding bills until after the end of June, in part so its second-quarter financial report would show more money in the bank, the sources said. It’s not an uncommon practice for campaigns facing long reporting deadlines, but it can obscure larger issues.

The main contributors to DeSantis recognize that the economic situation must be addressed. They plan to do this in part by cutting the costs of their events.

DeSantis won’t be traveling less, but his campaign appearances will start to become leaner and more intimate.

This week’s stop in Tega Cay, South Carolina, served as a starting point: It held a town hall-style event with a noticeably reduced security presence. According to figures provided by the campaign, the event cost $940 but brought in $1,600 in organic donations from attendees.

In the future, expect fewer podiums and stages and more stops at Pizza Ranches, churches and VFW halls where DeSantis can speak directly to voters without large platforms or barricades blocking close contact.

“All DeSantis needs to make news and win this primary is a microphone and a crowd,” Peck said.

The campaign will also rely more on the invitations of “special guests” from outside organizations to lower the costs of its own events, particularly those run by its bigger-pocketed counterparts at the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC.

New communication strategy

DeSantis will also adjust his message. So far, much of his pitch to voters has focused on his accomplishments in Florida. But it will soon shift to a more national vision, top campaign officials said.

The candidate already known for being a culture warrior will lean on an “us against the world” message in an effort to emerge as the insurgent fighter. The campaign aims to wear negative headlines as a badge of honour.

“The governor. DeSantis’ public service has been defined as the underdog. Every time he’s been underestimated, written off, or dismissed, he’s proven his enemies wrong, from a stunning upset win in his first congressional race, to beating Adam Putnam in Tallahassee in 2018, to surpassing the entrenched bureaucracy about COVID,” Peck. said.

At the same time, the campaign is opening up to what it has long called the “corporate media” after months of largely limiting its engagement with reporters in the conservative media. DeSantis answered questions from NBC News about immigration issues in June and sat down with CNN this week.

The campaign said more interviews with national media will come, along with more media groups and more general media access to the candidate while he’s on the road.

They’re dubbing it the “DeSantis Is Everywhere” approach and bringing in a new hire and solidifying the communications team to help execute it. Cody Hall joins the campaign as senior communications advisor. He will continue to serve as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s top political adviser, having served as communications director after working on his 2018 gubernatorial campaign. Campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo will serve as communications director and Bryan Griffin will continue as press secretary.

The DeSantis campaign has already fired about a dozen people, NBC News reported. Campaign officials said they don’t plan any more budget-related layoffs at this time.

The layoffs rocked the campaign. The source in the courtroom that day said a lawyer and a senior staff member, not Peck, went around the office and dryly notified the employees they were being let go, thanking them for their service and saying— those who had to leave at 2 pm that day. The fired employees were told that someone would follow up with them in the next few days.

The first GOP primary debate on Aug. 23 will be a key test for DeSantis, who will be the top campaign figure on stage if Trump stays away, as he has indicated he will. The campaign plans to ramp up the conversation about DeSantis’ biography in the coming weeks, focusing on the economy and foreign policy as top issues.

“The elites have already chosen their candidates, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, but the American people want a fighter who is not a creature of Washington and who is not afraid to stand up and take our country back,” a source familiar with the campaign. thinking he said

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