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‘A better version of Trump’: GOP donors flock to DeSantis

“He’s in the first row, if he chooses to run for president,” Pope said.

As the Republican Party charts the way forward, domestic donor interest in DeSantis skyrockets. Major donors across the country are lining up to support the governor’s re-election effort in 2022, with some pledging to host fundraising events and others pledging funds into his campaign bank account. In the past two months or more, DeSantis has received six-figure contributions from Republican mega-donors including Bernie Marcus, Paul Tudor Jones and Steven Witkoff, who in March hosted a high-value fundraiser at his lavish home. of Miami Beach.

The skyrocketing attention illustrates how the GOP donor class is starting to look beyond former President Donald Trump. While the former president would almost certainly lock in wide donor support if he submitted a return offer in 2024, the lack of clarity regarding his plans has opened the door for other potential candidates. Nearly two dozen Republican Party contributors and fundraisers said in interviews that the focus is increasingly on DeSantis.

Donor interest in the governor extends far beyond Florida. Andy Sabin, an executive at a New York-based precious metals company, said he plans to hold a pair of fundraisers later this year to bolster the governor’s re-election efforts. Dallas businessman Doug Deason plans to host an event before the summer. Don Tapia, who served as ambassador to Jamaica during the Trump administration, plans to host a fundraiser at his home in Arizona.

Like others, Tapia praised DeSantis on his handling of the pandemic and what he described as the governor’s independent style.

DeSantis “has a major political future in the Republican Party,” said Tapia, a retired electrical company executive who has been largely dedicated to GOP causes for several decades. Tapia wouldn’t say DeSantis was his top pick among the 2024 potential candidates, but called him a “strong candidate that I would really look at.”

The enthusiasm was fully manifested during DeSantis’ appearance at the Republican National Committee donors gala last weekend in Palm Beach, Fla., Where he drew fierce applause for saying the party needs personalities. who resisted public pressure and weren’t afraid to face what he called. “New York’s corporate media elite.”

The governor was assaulted over the weekend. Joanne Zervos, a New York City donor who spoke to DeSantis at the conference, said many contributors saw him as “a nicer version of Trump,” someone who had adopted the policies of the former president but who lacked its roughness. Zervos said she was drawn to the governor because of her approach to the coronavirus.

DeSantis also made a surprise appearance last week at a donor retreat hosted by the Conservative Partnership Institute, an organization overseen by Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Senator Jim DeMint (RS. VS.). The event took place at the Trump resort town of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. During his appearances last week, some attendees approached him and encouraged him to show up in 2024.

Whether DeSantis’ popularity among donors is lasting or fleeting remains an open question. The 2024 nomination contest is still a long way off and other potential candidates have also developed close relationships with contributors. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Was also well received at the RNC retreat, according to attendees. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) Has previously received financial support from hedge fund manager Paul Singer, one of the party’s most sought-after donors. Pence spent years cultivating big contributors, many of whom were uncomfortable with Trump but viewed the then vice president as an ally in the administration.

For now, DeSantis aides insist the 42-year-old governor is squarely focused on running for re-election and hasn’t started thinking about the presidential election, which they’ve tried to remind donors . The governor faces a potentially tough contest in 2022 against Democratic state agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried, who is set to enter the race soon.

But DeSantis’ aggressive courting of domestic donors bears striking similarities to the approach of then-Texas Governor George W. Bush, used in his run for re-election in 1998, which preceded his candidacy for office. presidential two years later. Bush spent the 1998 campaign traveling the country and running for the Republican Party’s biggest donors, many of whom helped with his re-election effort and later became key to his 2000 national campaign.

As he embarks on his fundraising blitz, DeSantis has begun to build a team with national experience. He enlisted veteran Republican strategist Phil Cox to help oversee his 2022 campaign. Cox, who developed deep ties with the donor class through his former leadership of the Republican Governors Association, accompanied the governor at last week’s retreats.

But perhaps DeSantis’ most powerful fundraising weapon is its home state, which has long housed some of the GOP’s biggest bankrollers. The Governor drew on high-end neighborhoods like Miami Beach, where, during a multi-stage March swing, he appeared at a fundraising lunch at La Gorce Country Club which was hosted by the promoter. real estate Jimmy Tate. Among others present, investor Jimmy Resnick.

Florida’s list of top Republican Party donors is growing. While the state has long lured the wealthy with its promise of low taxes and warm weather, the pandemic has accelerated migration. Financial executives say they have been drawn to DeSantis’ reluctance to embrace the strict mitigation policies implemented by blue state governors that have wreaked havoc on businesses.

The list includes venture capitalist David Blumberg, who moved in November to the Miami Beach area from San Francisco. Blumberg, who contributed more than $ 100,000 to Trump’s re-election effort, has met DeSantis a half-dozen times since arriving in the state.

“I admired Governor DeSantis from afar,” said Blumberg. “Since I moved to Florida with my family, I got to know him quite well and I have a really good impression of what I saw.

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