Stand Up for Trump: Pro-DeSantis Group Memo Reveals Possible Debate Strategy


Florida Governor and 2024 Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks with voters and residents of border communities during a campaign event in Eagle Pass, Texas, on June 26, 2023.

Susan Cordero | AFP | Getty Images

Major PAC Supporting Ron DeSantis Presidential Campaign Published, Then Removed, Memorandum Outlining Four-Pronged Strategy Florida Gov. May Take in Next Week’s Republican Primary Debate, New York Times First mentioned Thursday.

the documentalso reported by NBC News, recommended DeSantis defend former President Donald Trump from one of his opponent’s attacks — assuming Trump decided to skip the Milwaukee debate.

DeSantis should also attack President Joe Biden and the media up to five times, “hammer” GOP challenger Vivek Ramaswamy and declare his “positive vision” two or three times, according to the memo, which calls those targets “necessary.”

The two-page memo was one of a slew of records made public this week by Axiom Strategies, a company he heads. Jeff Rowe, a senior advisor to DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down. After the newspaper inquired about the corresponding strategy note, the group removed it from the Axiom website, according to the newspaper.

But the campaign’s other research documents are still in the axiom location. These documents include dissent research on Ramaswamy, the businessman and crusader against “wake-up” issues who made a huge impression on the campaign trail, as well as pages on how each challenger to DeSantis could attack him in a debate.

CNBC Politics

Read more from CNBC’s political coverage:

A 10-page memo on former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a key critic of both Trump and DeSantis who overstated his skills as an debater, suggests he might attack DeSantis “for not being overtly hostile to Trump.”

The now-deleted memo summarizing the goals of DeSantis’ debate advised him to “defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to Chris Christie’s attack.”

The memo even provided DeSantis’ pre-written response to Christie’s shooting. The note said, “Trump is not here, so let’s leave him alone. He is too weak to defend himself here. We are all running against him.”

The memo suggested that DeSantis could say, “I don’t think we want to join forces with someone at this point who is auditioning for a show on MSNBC.”

A spokeswoman for the Super PAC did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The memo underscores the fine line DeSantis is trying to walk as he seeks to defeat Trump in the Republican primary without alienating the former president’s loyal base. While Trump regularly blasts DeSantis at every available opportunity, the Florida governor has been less than willing to respond in kind.

US President Donald Trump greets Florida Governor Ron DeSantis upon his arrival at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Florida, May 8, 2019.

Kevin Lamarck | Reuters

This strategy did not produce an uptick in the polls in favor of DeSantis, who has seen his support erode in recent primary race national polls. Trump leads the field, even as he grapples with a total of 91 criminal charges in four active criminal cases.

Trump has suggested he will not attend the first primary debate, which is scheduled for Wednesday night in Milwaukee. “Why would you allow someone to zero, or one, or two, or three [in the polls] Does she pop you with questions? “

Trump also said he would not sign the GNC’s pledge to ultimately support the party’s nominee, a requirement for discussion.

Read the full report from The New York Times.

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