Trying to build out infrastructure across a broad swath of well over a dozen states is proving unsustainable for the DeSantis campaign, despite posting strong second-quarter fundraising of $20 million after just six weeks in the race. But as the Associated Press noted, the campaign also burned through nearly half of the money—$8 million—in the same time period.
At the same time, the DeSantis camp appears to be cluing in to the fact that if their candidate doesn’t have a strong showing in Iowa, either placing first or a very close second, he’ll be toast.
The DeSantis strategy had been to outlast other candidates—something along the lines of posting good showings in the first four states that would weaken Trump, hopefully make it a two-person race, and then turn in a strong showing on Super Tuesday, when roughly 14 contests will be held.
But as DeSantis has lost altitude nationally among both voters and high-dollar donors, Iowa has taken on greater importance. Last week, his campaign cut 10 staffers and redoubled its efforts in the Hawkeye State.
“His momentum will only continue as voters see more of him in person, especially in Iowa,” DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo explained. “Defeating Joe Biden and the $72 million behind him will require a nimble and candidate-driven campaign, and we are building a movement to go the distance.”
Here’s how that “candidate-driven” campaign is playing in Iowa.
“Was trying to enjoy my lunch with my bf at Dairy Queen in Boone and Ron DeSantis randomly came in, told the worker [Iowa Gov.] Kim Reynolds was doing a great job, and left. What the literal fuck,” posted one reddit user in the Iowa State Subreddit.
As longtime progressive and labor advocate Kombiz Lavasany tweeted, “Iowans are not impressed with real human Ron DeSantis.”
The problems for DeSantis now are manifold. He’s not a natural retail campaigner in a state where retail campaigning is king; his early missteps have emboldened Trump, making him seem more inevitable even as the former president stacks up criminal indictments; and DeSantis’ very apparent weaknesses have created openings for other candidates when it comes to voters and donors alike. A leaked internal memo from earlier this month reveals the DeSantis campaign views Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina as his biggest threat.
On the plus side, Iowa’s very popular Gov. Kim Reynolds is pulling for DeSantis despite remaining publicly neutral—which is ticking off Trump.
Influential evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats, who is clearly searching for a candidate to back who’s not named Trump, has praised DeSantis.
But both the math and the expectations game are working against DeSantis. The expectation has always been that he was Trump’s biggest competitor and could quickly make the primary a two-person race with the frontrunner. But if someone like Scott catches fire in Iowa and places a very close third to DeSantis, or even second, Scott will win the expectations game while DeSantis limps into New Hampshire, where a new poll shows former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is making gains. (Christie is going to eat DeSantis’ lunch in the August debate since Trump looks likely to be a no-show.)
GOP polling firm American Pulse writes that DeSantis “appears to be losing steam” as Christie breaks into double digits at 10%, just a smidge behind DeSantis at 11%. Trump is still dominating the Granite State at 48% in the survey.
If DeSantis seriously stumbles in Iowa or New Hampshire, he’s likely done. Donors are already closing their wallets as they look for alternatives whom they deem more capable of challenging Trump and remaining electable in a general election.