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Ron DeSantis demoted his presidential campaign manager on Tuesday, the latest effort from the Florida governor to reboot a bid for the Republican party’s 2024 nomination that has been marked by staff shake-ups, shifting media strategies and sniping from top donors.
Generra Peck had been demoted to chief strategist and would be replaced by James Uthmeier, the governor’s trusted chief of staff, the campaign said. Veteran Republican strategist David Polyansky, who previously worked as an adviser to Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis political action committee, will become deputy campaign manager.
DeSantis’s latest move to reset his bid for the Republican nomination comes he tries to narrow a gap on Donald Trump, whose lead has risen in national polling despite recent criminal indictments. A compilation of polls by FiveThirtyEight shows the former president above 53 per cent in the primary, and DeSantis languishing at about 15 per cent.
When he entered the race this year, DeSantis appeared to be Trump’s biggest Republican threat after cruising to re-election in Florida in 2022 and becoming a favourite on Fox News for his efforts to reopen schools and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. But he has occasionally come across as socially awkward and his central fight against “wokeness” has faltered with some Republican voters.
He has also been criticised for gearing up his presidential campaign too quickly and for initially staying within the safe confines of conservative media circles. Over the past several weeks he has overseen staff cuts, including firing an aide who shared a pro-DeSantis video featuring Nazi imagery.
“James Uthmeier has been one of Governor DeSantis’s top advisers for years and he is needed where it matters most: working hand in hand with Generra Peck and the rest of the team to put the governor in the best possible position to win this primary and defeat Joe Biden,” said Andrew Romeo, the communications director for DeSantis.
DeSantis has drawn criticism from some major GOP donors for signing into state law a six-week abortion ban bill. But on Monday he told NBC that he would not embrace a federal ban on abortions.
DeSantis also dismissed Trump’s claims to have won the 2020 election, his clearest statement yet about the former president’s attempts to overturn the result.
The Financial Times recently reported that some big donors including billionaires Ken Griffin and Nelson Peltz are rethinking plans to support DeSantis over concerns that he has veered too far to the right.
Earlier this year, top Republican donor Thomas Peterffy told the FT that “[I] put myself on hold” in part because of DeSantis’ views on social issues.
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