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“They can smell a loser”

less than two months after Ron DeSantis’ declared run for president, his biggest backers in the conservative media are already starting to lose faith.

Since the start of Biden’s presidency, the powerful Murdoch family has favored the Florida governor in the 2024 presidential primary, largely because of the belief that DeSantis would be more electable, and less chaotic, evolution of Donald Trump. But in recent weeks, the Murdochs have grown increasingly displeased with the perceived stumbles of the DeSantis campaign, lackluster polling and an inability to quickly dethrone Trump, multiple sources said. rolling stone They have also seriously questioned whether the governor is capable of defeating Trump in the 2024 GOP presidential primary.

Billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, in particular, has expressed doubts and frustrations in private conversations and calls, sometimes questioning whether a DeSantis “comeback” is possible at this point. Murdoch is the patriarch for many years the family that controls Fox Newsthe New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and other media properties that are highly influential among conservatives.

“[Rupert’s] The understandable concern is that we might end up stuck with Trump anyway,” says a senior Fox source rolling stone “And DeSantis is underperforming. Anyone can see that… [and the Murdochs]they’re seeing it too.”

This report is based on conversations with two people who speak to the Murdochs, three well-placed sources at Fox and three more knowledgeable about the situation. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose the content of the private discussions. Rupert Murdoch did not respond to messages seeking comment for this story. A spokesman for the DeSantis campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Fox representative declined to comment Tuesday.

According to two of the sources, Murdoch has privately railed against DeSantis’ strategy of nonstop cultural reclamation, arguing that it is being sloppily executed. In his repeated attempts to outflank the already far-right Trump, DeSantis and his team have waged an aggressive messaging operation to paint the Florida governor as a much more extreme culture warrior compared to the former president, most recently through a stranger. , bigoted video praising the governor for his anti-LGBTQ attacks. That strategy has drawn criticism for months from fellow Republicans for being unintelligent and “too online” to connect with the average voter.

“They’re transactional and can smell a loser a mile away,” one Fox insider bluntly assesses, referring to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch and top Fox News executives.

Rupert Murdoch’s complaints of late have centered, three of the sources said, on how he feels DeSantis often seems too uncomfortable in his public presentation and in his attempts to connect with the American voter. Murdoch has also noted the recent failures of DeSantis 2024 to chip away at Trump’s dogged dominance in the polls, despite the campaign’s pre-launch hype about how things would change significantly right after DeSantis’ declaration. After months of high-quality polling, the twice-impeached former president continues to hold steady leads over DeSantis, his main Republican challenger in 2024.

Hints of the Murdoch clan’s unease with DeSantis at News Corp’s media properties have surfaced in recent weeks. Two sources familiar with the matter stress that this is “not by chance” and “not a coincidence”.

It’s also a marked change for the Murdoch clan. Until recently, Fox News had been extremely friendly and safe territory for the Florida governor, with softball questions about his culture war crusades and other issues. Since 2021, the network has been vital in building DeSantis’ national name identification among conservatives, heralding him as a fast-rising political star and promoting him as the future of the Trumpified right.

In an interview last week, Fox News host Will Cain praised DeSantis’ record as Florida governor, but wondered “when does this job, if ever, start to resonate in the numbers for you as president.” The DeSantis campaign, Cain said, is “still not connecting” with voters as Trump continues to enjoy a significant lead in the polls.

Sunday, host and ally of Trump Maria Bartiromo bluntly asked DeSantis on air, “What’s going on with your campaign?” as “optimism” about it has faded with his poll numbers, as a chyron advised viewers: “DeSantis trails Trump by 34% for GOP nomination.”

The editorial pages of News Corp newspapers. — often important tea leaves for divining the wishes and political priorities of the Murdoch family — also appear to have taken a hit from DeSantis recently. The right Wall Street Journal the editorial board pointed to Florida new restrictive immigration bill, a key pillar in DeSantis’ attempts to reach the former president’s right. The bill, the board concluded, “will exacerbate the state’s labor shortages while doing nothing to fix Biden’s border mistakes.”

The New York Post The editorial board, which once hailed DeSantis as the candidate who “gives America a chance to snap out of its drunken stupor,” has suddenly started looking at DeSantis. In its recent collections of notable comments from other publications, the board has curated pieces that express skepticism in “Weird choices by DeSantis” for criticizing Trump’s Supreme Court picks and for being “too much online” in his constant culture war crusade.

In recent years, there has been much talk, including by Trump, of the Murdochs’ perceived desire to move on from the former president, if not Trumpism itself. When DeSantis dominated the race in Florida during something else historically bleak result for the 2022 GOP midterms, Murdoch-controlled properties immediately began trying bury Trump, whom many Republicans blamed for the party’s disastrous election showing. The contrast was enough for the New York Post put the governor of Florida on his deck and labeling it “DeFuture”.

Yet even at the lowest points of the Trump-Fox relationship, the former president continued to enjoy strong support from a wide variety of on-air talent and hosts from Fox News and its sister channel Fox Business. That includes prime-time stars like Sean Hannity, who has been one of Trump’s top political advisers for years.

Another source with ties to Fox executives, Trump and the DeSantis camp adds that Fox and the Murdochs “are in a corner. They’ve clearly gone all-in for DeSantis, and now it’s not resonating. And now they have a new one [prime-time] formation launch, so they will be under a microscope.”

But at this point in the Republican primary, the Murdochs aren’t ready to throw DeSantis overboard yet, sources say, in part because they likely would have nowhere else to turn except to get back at Trump. Meanwhile, the media mogul and his lieutenants can continue to press the DeSantis team for a course correction that Murdoch is beginning to suspect will never materialize.

“Ron DeSantis was created as the Trump killer So if he doesn’t immediately lead Trump in the polls, it’s easy to see how that can easily be let down,” says Doug Heye, former communications director for the Republican National Committee. “There are a lot of people who are trying to write the obituary of “a well-funded and popular figure in the party before the debates started. Ron was the designated dragon slayer, and because he hasn’t slain the dragon before the debates start, he’s being portrayed as a failure. And I think it’s too early for that.”

However, Heye adds, “if you’re the Murdochs or anybody else, if you’re worried about Trump being the nominee, there’s a lot of reason to be because of his dominance in the polls now. I don’t think Trump is inevitable , but I’m definitely worried about him being the nominee [again].”

Diana Falzone, one of the authors of this article, worked at Fox News from 2012 to 2018.

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