DeSantis is set to be the star of the first Republican debate, and the event in Florida’s ruby-red Northwest region has been put together by Never Back Down, a super PAC that supports his campaign. This event comes as his struggling campaign underwent several reboots, with questions swirling around whether he will be successful or have fading eyesight.
The Florida governor, who is currently in second place in the Republican primary, is expected to withstand most attacks targeted at individuals not identified as Donald Trump. Additionally, Trump has pledged to skip the FOX news broadcast, which may include his own prime time interview with Tucker Carlson during the debate stage in Milwaukee, setting the stage for DeSantis’ campaign reset.
DeSantis has an opportunity to improve his performance in the polls with the help of a two-hour, Trump-free setup. However, he faces ambiguity on how to win over Republican primary voters without criticizing Trump, who is consistently ahead in major public-opinion surveys. A leaked memo from PAC advised DeDisney to defend Trump’s debate strategy, which LeSantan refused to disclose.
The memo recommended that DeSantis focus on Vivek Ramaswamy, a political novice who has gained popularity in some early-state polls. However, targeting him could result in an elevation of his influence among voters who are only starting to tune into his campaign.
Nick Iarossi, a Florida-based lobbyist who supports DeSantis, stated in an interview that Trump’s criticism of him as the two-man race is not justified, but rather to strengthen his anti-Trump Republican support.
Despite being close to the DeSantis campaign, Iarossi declined to provide any guidance on preparing for debates and predicted that the governor would instead focus on President Joe Biden rather than targeting Trump or other Republicans.
Iarossi stated that the athlete will face a lot of pressure and must be prepared for tough competition. The advantage is that he will have ample time to talk, according to his statement.
In recent interviews, DeSantis has expressed his belief that lower-ranked candidates will seek to replace him as the Republican alternative leader to Trump. He also criticized the former president’s decision not to participate in the face-off with Martha MacCallum during an interview on FOX.
DeSantis emphasized that nobody is entitled to anything in the Republican nomination. Nevertheless, he confirmed his decision to avoid discussing Trump and asserted that the country is declining under Joe Biden.
In the meantime, his campaign criticized a fundraising email that denounced “unfounded and false attacks” from his opponents and held the media, DC political elite, and the Left responsible for not declaring him as the winner.
DeSantis followed a strategy that involved reviewing his Florida record and parting with his presidential campaign platform, which focused on border security and cracking down on the federal bureaucracy, during his last public appearance before the debate. He avoided mentioning Trump personally, unlike many who targeted Biden or Hunter BiDEN.
He stated that it was time for Republicans to shake off their recent losses, beyond Florida, and questioned the “executive” branch members who followed in the footsteps of former top medical adviser Anthony Fauci.
DeSantis is likely the primary target, and Ramaswamy made it clear during a press conference in Atlanta that he was prepared to confront him.
He remarked that he is not as prepared for other candidates and has already conducted an interview with DeSantis without disclosing his identity.
Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, who famously taunted Sen. Marco Rubio during the 2016 presidential race by making a joke on the debate stage, also took ill treatment from DeSantis when asked about the Never Back Down memo in Atlanta over the weekend.
Christie, who is set to participate in the debate on Wednesday, remarked that a Florida politician had used snide language against him during the discussion. “What could it have done wrong?”
DeSantis was advised by Republican consultants who have experience working on presidential campaigns and are not affiliated with any current candidates, to prioritize his own campaign operation, which has been criticized for a series of errors.
Alex Conant, who was involved in Rubio’s 2016 White House campaign, emphasized the need for him to demonstrate that he is their man and surpasses his campaign by winning over voters.
The campaign was criticized more bluntly by Matthew Bartlett, a New Hampshire native who has worked on multiple GOP presidential candidates.
Bartlett referred to the strategy memo from Never Back Down and noted that DeSantis’ super PAC has put him behind the campaign and into a vulnerable position.
Bartlett urged DeSantis to present areas of differentiation between himself and Trump, labeling it a “fairytale” scenario where Trump will suffer due to his legal issues. “To be the man, you must defeat him,” he said.
He advised the Florida governor to avoid only listing his conservative accomplishments, stating that litigating is not an option. It’s all about having a positive attitude and swagger on the stage.
Those who came to Florida’s beach to hear the governor speak were still optimistic about his chances, even as the sun was setting and the waves were set.
“He’s proven himself in Florida,” said Doug Stauffer, a pastor from Niceville who attended the rally and donned revealing DeSantis attire.
Despite facing criticism from the media and federal bureaucracy, Stauffer believes that Trump has done a good job. He also thinks that if DeSantis wins next year’s Florida primary, he will vote for him in the general election.
He is a presidential candidate, and I would support him,” Stauffer said.
This story was influenced by Kimberly Leonard’s input.