With presidential campaign stalled, DeSantis reboots at luxury resort retreat

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TALLAHASSEE − Stalled in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' campaign is rebooting, promising what advisers are calling a leaner, meaner "insurgency" effort going forward.

The changes, outlined during a three-day retreat at a luxury Park City, Utah resort, involving campaign staff, along with 70 donors and fund-raisers, is a major pivot coming only two months after DeSantis formally launched his White House run.

Polls show DeSantis anchored in second place – far behind his party’s frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, whose popularity within the GOP ranks appears to only increase amid a cascade of legal problems.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is shaking up his stumbling presidential campaign.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is shaking up his stumbling presidential campaign.

Across-the-board changes planned

The DeSantis reboot is expected to include sweeping changes in messaging, media strategy and events. Cost-cutting, already underway, is certain to get even more attention, said sources briefed on the plans.

DeSantis also plans to spend even more time in early GOP primary states. But now he plans to do more town halls and smaller-scale gatherings to make him appear more personable.

While more outreach to mainstream media is portrayed as part of DeSantis 2.0, a campaign spokesman Monday seemed to adhere to what has become the Florida governor’s customary approach.

“The media has tried to destroy Ron DeSantis’ campaign since day one because they are scared to death he will beat Joe Biden,” Andrew Romeo, a campaign spokesman, said in a statement. “We won’t be deterred and are going to win the nomination.”

More change, near the campaign's top

Bloomberg News also reported Monday that the campaign’s digital director, Ethan Eilon, is being elevated to deputy campaign manager. The current manager, Generra Peck, who also led DeSantis’ re-election campaign for governor, is said to be under fire over the lagging poll numbers and the campaign’s heavy spending.

The campaign had 92 staffers, more than double that of Trump and dozens more than any of the other Republican contenders. But those staff ranks have been pared with the firings of about 10 staffers earlier this month, likely with more departures to come.

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The DeSantis campaign raked in over $20 million since his late May campaign kick-off and ended the June quarter with $12.2 million on hand, according to his Federal Elections Commission filing.

The Never Back Down PAC supporting DeSantis’ bid, posted on social media this month that the governor had raised a combined $150 million for his race.

Money, though, is tightening. Of the $20 million he raised, two-thirds came from donors who had reached their legal limit and can’t donate again.

Cash flow – out

DeSantis also is spending.

The governor and First Lady Casey DeSantis choose private aircraft for most of their travel, and the luxury Four Seasons Resort in Miami has been paid $279,000 by the campaign for a fund-raising spectacle which followed his campaign launch in May and another event in June.

The Park City resort where the reboot was unveiled also is pricey. The exclusive Stein Eriksen Lodge rents a grand suite for $1,894 per night, according to the resort’s website.

According to NBC News, the three-day weekend retreat included rounds of golf and a briefing Sunday by Peck, the campaign manager, who reportedly continues to have the support of DeSantis.

John Kennedy is a reporter in the USA TODAY Network’s Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at jkennedy2@gannett.com, or on Twitter at @JKennedyReport

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Ron DeSantis reboot: How Florida governor hopes to overtake Trump