DeSantis courts donors for new political group after tensions flared among allies

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(WASHINGTON) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will meet this week with high-dollar Republicans to try to cement their support for the newest political action committee supporting his presidential bid, his campaign manager, James Uthmeier, wrote in a memo on Monday morning.

Fight Right, Inc. was formed this month to supplement the efforts of Never Back Down, the super PAC which has bankrolled much of DeSantis’ sprawling ground work in early voting states like Iowa and has hosted the governor for dozens of events there.

The Tallahassee-based super PAC, which has ties to DeSantis allies Jeff Aaron, David Dewhirst and Scott Ross, will focus solely on TV advertising attacking DeSantis’ primary opponents.

“Fight Right exists for one purpose: to shed light on the failed records and leadership of Governor DeSantis’ opponents,” its website states.

The development comes as DeSantis, who entered the 2024 race with widespread popularity in the GOP, has grappled with stagnant poll numbers as many voters continue to embrace rival Donald Trump, despite Trump’s challengers hoping he would be weakened by his extensive legal troubles. (He denies wrongdoing.)

Never Back Down has also had a turbulent past few weeks, with infighting between members of leadership and the resignation of the group’s chief executive.

Sources have said tensions flared within the political operation over how to stop former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s momentum in the polls as she pushes to be the main Trump alternative in the field.

In a fraught moment earlier this month that was first reported by NBC News, two board members from Never Back Down nearly got into a physical fight during a private meeting between senior staff and board members.

Never Back Down’s chief executive officer resigned a week after the heated exchange, though it’s not clear why.

Fight Right Inc. filed with the state of Florida shortly after that argument.

In the memo on Monday, which was obtained by ABC News, Uthmeier wrote that he “welcomes the independent efforts” of the new super PAC to offer “welcomed air support.”

The group has already hit Iowa’s airwaves with a 30-second spot slamming Haley and has spent nearly $970,000 against her, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. (Haley, for her part, has tried to brush off DeSantis’ attacks.)

The governor’s meeting with prospective Fight Right donors — set to take place in Palm Beach, Florida, according to someone familiar with the gathering — comes at a potentially critical point in his campaign, with primary voting set to begin in less than two months.

The governor continues to lose ground while Haley has seen a steady rise in both national and state polls since the summer, leading the two to battle it out for a distant second place behind Trump.

According to 538’s latest national polling average, DeSantis leads Haley, roughly 12% to 10%.

In Iowa, according to 538’s averages, DeSantis narrowly edges out Haley for second place while in New Hampshire, he has faded to fourth behind Trump, Haley and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

In the memo, Uthmeier laid out an ideal scenario for the final two months before voting starts: The campaign and Never Back Down work the ground, while Fight Right takes the airwaves.

That vision statement seems to serve as a direct message to the groups about how they can support the efforts of the campaign, which cannot legally coordinate with them.

Uthmeier has also boasted to donors about Never Back Down’s field organizing, calling the PAC “the largest Iowa turnout machine in history.”

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