- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dismissed concerns about his presidential campaign.
- DeSantis said his focus on the early states is not designed to make a national splash akin to a TV ad.
- “I’m not running a campaign to try to juice whatever we are in the national polls,” he said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday projected confidence in his presidential campaign as even some of his allies and donors express fear that he’s not breaking through against former President Donald Trump.
DeSantis argued his campaign isn’t aimed at making a national splash. Instead, he said, his focus is on the key early states in the GOP presidential primary that begins in less than six months with the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.
“The reality is this is a state-by-state process, I’m not running a campaign to try to juice whatever we are in the national polls,” DeSantis told CNN’s Jake Tapper during a rare sit-down interview with a non-conservative news network.
The Florida governor’s comments come on the heels of news that he is laying off some of his campaign staff, signaling some sort of campaign reset in the critical time before the first GOP presidential debate next month.
“We’re focused on building an organization,” DeSantis said. “You got to get people to come out in January in the middle of January in Iowa to caucus for you that requires an organization, that requires to know where those votes are. Now, that is not going make the same type of splash nationally if you’re going to run ads or do those other things.”
The reality, though, is that many past presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle have tried to focus on early states amid struggles. DeSantis has faced his own challenges since announcing. NBC News reported that his campaign laid off roughly a dozen staffers amid cost-cutting efforts.
In many cases, this type of play doesn’t work. Vice President Kamala Harris touted a “Camp Kamala” in Iowa and even made Thanksgiving dinner at an Iowan’s home. In the end, she dropped out before the caucuses even started. While former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie focused almost exclusively on New Hampshire in 2016, only to finish sixth.
Some candidates have found success, though it was fleeting. Sen. Ted Cruz reinvigorated his 2016 Republican presidential campaign after winning Iowa, but in the end Trump’s domination of the remaining early states and Super Tuesday proved to be too much.
Another challenge is that focusing on state-by-state campaigning can be expensive. As DeSantis told Tapper, it historically takes a deep organization to win the Iowa caucuses. A pro-DeSantis super PAC has pledged to spend $100 million on building an organization in the early states, The Washington Post previously reported.
DeSantis touted his fundraising for his first six weeks, which outpaced both Trump and President Joe Biden. The Florida governor easily remains Trump’s best-positioned primary foe.
“I kind of get a kick out of when they say, ‘he didn’t fundraise well’ when I did more than both Biden and Trump in the second quarter,” DeSantis said.
But the Florida governor is also spending money at an enormous clip, risking the possibility of his future stability if he is unable to rein in his spending or continue to raise significant sums.