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DeSantis’ PAC super boss: We’re spreading dirt on Ramaswamy

Hours later, Ramaswamy would become a focal point of the debate, with the billionaire entrepreneur and front-runner trading barbs with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence.

Campaigns and allied super PACs often place opposition investigations of their opponents in the press in hopes of getting negative stories. But it’s extremely rare for a top strategist to be caught on tape admitting it. And Roe is no mere operative. Never Back Down has taken a central role in trying to secure DeSantis’ nomination, spending tens of millions of dollars to support a major voter persuasion and advertising operation.

A spokesman for Never Back Down did not return a request for comment. Ramaswamy’s campaign, however, played up Roe’s comments as evidence that the candidate was gaining momentum.

“When DeSantis’ Super Pac campaign, Chris Christie, the New York Times, MSNBC and the rest of the bipartisan establishment are coming after you at the same time, you know you’re right over the mark,” Ramaswamy’s spokeswoman said , Tricia McLaughlin. “America saw Vivek dominate the debate stage, no wonder Never Back Down is troubling over $20 million after Labor Day.”

Polls have shown Ramaswamy gaining momentum in the Republican presidential primary and even battling for contention with DeSantis as the primary challenger to the primary candidate, former President Donald Trump. While Roe argued that the Harvard-educated Ramaswamy, 38, would wither under increased scrutiny from the national press corps, his private remarks also betrayed an anxiety within DeSantis’ orbit about his rise.

Before the debate, Roe’s political consulting firm, Axiom, had posted a dossier on its website suggesting ways DeSantis might try to smear Ramaswamy, primarily by branding him a fake. During the pre-debate presentation, Roe said the well-funded Never Back Down was behind a series of negative stories about Ramaswamy, who in recent days has faced questions about his inconsistencies on key issues, the his views on foreign policy and his readiness to be president. He has also come under fire for his past criticism of Trump, whom Ramaswamy now praises as the “best president of the 21st century.”

“It’s not going to go very well through the discovery, scrutiny and decay phase of presidential politics,” Roe predicted. “The scrutiny phase of it, we’re putting it through right now.”

Roe’s presentation, which was held in Milwaukee, Wis., the site of the first GOP primary debate, was intended to provide an update to DeSantis’ top financial backers. During the approximately one-hour meeting, parts of which were earlier reported by CNN i The New York Times – Roe asked contributors for $50 million to fund super PAC efforts. The appeal came as polls have shown DeSantis trailing in the race and trailing Trump by wide margins nationally and in early primary states.

Roe stressed that the governor needed to “have a moment” during the debate and show he could “take a punch.” But he also downplayed the idea that DeSantis was in a bad place politically. He compared the campaign to a college football season, with the debate representing the opening kickoff.

“We’ve been playing without pads, practicing without pads,” Roe said. The campaign, he added, has been “playing in the sandbox with Vivek and [North Dakota Gov. Doug] Burgum and this kind of dance we have to do, little tapioca pudding shit we’ve been doing. I think the separation will be real, raw and aggressive. I think that will become very clear the day after Labor Day.”

While Roe emphasized that the race was still in its early stages, he also noted that Never Back Down had been investing serious resources to help position DeSantis for the stretch ahead. The super PAC, he disclosed, had spent $15 million before the Florida governor announced his presidential bid in late May.

The DeSantis operation has made electability a central theme of its pitch to voters, arguing that it would be better positioned to defeat President Joe Biden in 2024. During the meeting, Roe argued that if Trump were the nominee, the Republicans would lose the presidential race and give Democrats control of both houses of Congress. He also warned that in that scenario, Democrats would pack the Supreme Court and push for statehood in Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.

As for the way forward, Roe tried to sound a bullish note.

“Iowa is a real state for us because of its education, it’s a highly educated state, because of the income, because of the Bible reading,” he said of the first caucus state, where DeSantis trails Trump by a slightly less severe margin than elsewhere. “New Hampshire is a terrible state for Donald Trump. This is a terrible state for him. He’s going to get 28 percent. Now there are more people who are going to have a piece of that and some people are just betting on New Hampshire in general . But he’s going to lose the first two states. We’re going to win him in Iowa.”


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