Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis began cutting campaign staff just months into his presidential bid as he has struggled to gain ground in Republican primaries and lost ground in some public polls to former President Donald J. Trump.
The exact number of people fired by DeSantis’ team was unclear, but a campaign aide said it was fewer than 10. The development was previously reported by political.
The layoffs are an ominous sign for the campaign and also underscore the challenges Mr. DeSantis faces with both his fundraising and spending, at a time when several major donors who had expressed interest in him have become concerned about his performance.
An aide, Andrew Romeo, described the circumstances of the campaign in an optimistic tone.
“Americans are rallying behind Ron DeSantis and his plan to reverse Joe Biden’s failures and restore sanity to our nation, and his momentum will only continue as voters see him more in person, especially in Iowa,” he said. it’s a statement. “Defeating Joe Biden and the $72 million behind him will require a nimble, candidate-driven campaign, and we are building a movement to see it through to the end.”
The race is still in its early days, and past campaigns have been reshuffled in the months before voting began. Former Sen. John McCain blew up his campaign in the summer of 2007 before winning the Republican nomination. Mr. Trump went through three iterations of his successful bid, though none came during the primary election.
Several of DeSantis’ top fundraisers have said the Florida governor is committed to the long haul, with a focus on upcoming debates and contests beginning in January.
But Mr. DeSantis’s moves come unusually early. And fundraising numbers, released Saturday, show a campaign that will need to make several adjustments, including travel schedule and staff size, if it plans to regain lost momentum that began to fade months before DeSantis formally entered office. The presidency. career.
DeSantis’ campaign is also expected to make more changes, according to aides. Policy speeches, along with interviews with the kind of media he has widely criticized, are planned as early as this week, according to two people familiar with the strategy.
Mr. DeSantis’s struggles appear to be not just over the numbers, but also over the campaign’s message. Late last week, it was announced that two top DeSantis advisers, Dave Abrams and Tucker Obenshain, would be leaving to join an outside group supporting DeSantis.
Disclosure of Mr. DeSantis’s campaign finances with the Federal Election Commission shows he raised approximately $20 million but spent nearly $8 million, a burn rate that leaves him with only $12 million in cash on hand. Only about $9 million of that cash can be spent on the primary, with the rest counting toward the general election if he is the nominee.
The filing indicated a surprisingly large staff for a campaign so early in a bid, particularly for one with a super PAC that has shown just how much of a load it is prepared to handle. Over $1 million in expenses were listed as “payroll” and payroll processing.
Mr. DeSantis’ major expenses included $1.3 million for travel, including private jet charter services. The campaign also spent more than $800,000 each on digital fundraising consulting, media placement, and postage. The campaign also paid nearly $1 million to WinRed, the online donation processing company.
Recent Republican primary elections have been littered with examples of candidates with initial spark followed by significant fights. Scott Walker, who was governor of Wisconsin, dropped out of the presidential race in September 2015 because he was racking up debt. Jeb Bush, one of DeSantis’s predecessors as Florida governor and perhaps the biggest donor draw in the 2016 campaign, also began cutting payroll amid difficulties, albeit much later in the race.
Still, DeSantis’s allies point out that he is ahead of Bush in the Iowa polls in the fall of 2015 and that he has a more natural constituency in Iowa than other challengers. The caucuses will be held on January 15, 2024, and it is the state where candidates seeking to challenge Trump must do well.
Rachel Shorey contributed reporting.