Top officials on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign acknowledged to donors on Sunday that they’d spent too much money and that further changes would be made as they look to recover from a disappointing start, according to three people who were present for the discussion.
Appearing before around 70 of the campaign’s top contributors at the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley, Utah, DeSantis’ campaign manager Generra Peck said money had been spent on operations that had turned out to be ineffective and that the campaign would move to a leaner, “insurgent” posture going forward. Among the changes being made were to “expose” voters to DeSantis more, said Nick Iarossi, a Florida-based lobbyist and fundraiser who was at the event.
“Let Ron be Ron,” added Iarossi. “That’s what got him here. That’s what made him the leader that he is in Florida. We’re going back to our basics on all of this.”
The retreat comes as DeSantis has slipped in national and early state polling, with recent surveys showing him trailing former President Donald Trump by large margins. There have also been growing concerns about the campaign’s financial position. The campaign recently cut fewer than 10 staffers who were involved in event planning. Two senior DeSantis political aides, Dave Abrams and Tucker Obenshain, also recently departed the campaign to work on an outside pro-DeSantis effort.
Peck did not specify what the changes would be, according to a person who was present, though she indicated that everything would be on the table. Peck noted that the campaign had put too much money into event planning, the three people present said.
One attendee said the campaign officials indicated that they would spend less on fundraising, directing money saved there into operations in early nominating states. The aides expressed confidence in their early state efforts, and outlined the infrastructure they had developed.
DeSantis has been criticized for running a campaign that has shunned the mainstream media and relied on a bloated team of 90-plus staffers, which has drained the campaign’s coffers. Attendees said Peck told the group that the governor planned to run more as an outsider, doing more media and smaller events.
Last week, DeSantis had an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper — his first extensive sit-down with a mainstream media outlet. Aides say they expect the governor to do further interviews with mainstream organizations. He has also teased further policy rollouts.
Peck was joined on the roughly hour-long panel by three other top campaign officials — Sam Cooper, Ryan Tyson and Ethan Eilon. The weekend retreat also featured a Saturday evening “Investor Appreciation Dinner,” a “Campaign Brainstorm and Strategy Session” and a Sunday night barbeque dinner.
Despite the campaign’s early stumbles and the slimming of staff, Iarossi stressed that Peck’s position atop the operation was not in danger.
“The important thing that everyone realized here is the first family has complete faith in Generra and the team,” he said. “The team is going to continue to evaluate the direction, be nimble, make changes as necessary. But the team is solidly behind her, the donors are solidly behind her. And this insurgent campaign that’s being run is going to allow us to be more efficient going forward.”