DeSantis dinner tickets not selling? The Florida governor’s campaign team tough to work with?
Those stories have popped up in the political press recently, but that’s not the story in New Hampshire, the state’s GOP chairman tells NHJournal.
Reports from national political outlets that the party is struggling to sell tickets to the Amos Tuck fundraising dinner featuring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis simply are not true, said chairman Chris Ager. The event, scheduled for this Friday, is on track to be a major success, with a big crowd in the room and plenty of money in the bank.
“We will have a full house on Friday,” Ager said. “Ticket sales are right where we predicted they’d be. And that’s very good news for our party.”
DeSantis is widely expected to announce his presidential bid this summer. He consistently polls as frontrunner Donald Trump’s top challenger. That may explain why DeSantis has been under fire in the political press of late, including a report from “Puck’s” Tara Palmeri that ticket sales for the event have been slow.
Palmeri wrote sources told her, “The New Hampshire GOP is still struggling to sell tickets, at every level up from entry-level tickets to $5,000 dinner sponsorships… With only one week to go, organizers are apparently underwhelmed by the interest in an event they’d hoped would sell out.”
Underwhelmed? “We are looking forward to a record-breaking event,” Ager said.
Asked about claims the DeSantis folks are unusually demanding or difficult to work with, Ager said, “The DeSantis team has been great to work with – just like every visiting Republican team.”
DeSantis’ (technically undeclared) campaign is getting dinged a lot at the moment, and not just in New Hampshire. Erick Erickson is a nationally-known conservative media figure with connections to the DeSantis campaign. Over the weekend, he called out Palmeri’s report which claimed, “DeSantis is mulling the option of not running until 2028.
“As someone with legitimate inside sources, I can tell you firsthand this simply isn’t true,” Erickson told his readers. “Puck News relied on a political consultant that was passed over by the DeSantis team for a job and had an axe to grind. One call to the DeSantis team confirmed my suspicions.”
There was also a sudden spate of stories suggesting DeSantis may be looking past early states like Iowa and New Hampshire in favor of a “long haul” strategy focused on delegate-rich states like New York and California. It is an approach reminiscent of Rudy Giuliani’s failed 2012 GOP primary bid and a story that could hurt DeSantis in the Granite State if it gains ground.
More political spin, says DeSantis’ allies.
“If he didn’t believe New Hampshire is an important part of the process to capture the nomination, Gov. DeSantis would not be stopping here next week,” said former New Hampshire GOP vice chair Pamela Tucker. “I’m confident DeSantis’ team knows the value of competing and winning here.”
So, where is all of the DeSantis disinfo coming from? Multiple sources point to the Trump campaign working the press to sow doubts about DeSantis early on.
“It’s smart politics,” said one experienced GOP operative. “DeSantis is still on the sidelines, and he’s notorious for not working the press. Trump’s people leak like a sieve when they’re not supposed to be talking. They’ve got to love this.”
Meanwhile, Alex Olson, a chief strategist for the pro-DeSantis Ron to the Rescue PAC, says people are overthinking the current state of the race.
“Trump has very high ‘highs’ and very low ‘lows,’ and we’re at a high right now” due to Trump’s indictment. Right now, Trump is benefitting, Olson says, because “even libertarian-leaning Republicans who don’t like Trump “know this indictment is partisan B.S.”
But, Olson added, “Who knows where Trump will be in a month, or in two months, or when the voting starts?”
Don’t expect DeSantis to make major changes in his strategy in response to some questionably-sourced media reports.
“They’re maintaining their course while the (Florida) legislature is in session,” Olson said. “He’s doing a damn good job of getting his agenda passed. That’s a record to run on; it shows he’s a man of action.”
As for the campaign Olson expects to kick off in May or June, “behind the scene, the wheels are turning.”
On Sunday came word DeSantis has scheduled his first South Carolina stop for April 19 in the state’s GOP vote-rich Upstate region. What will his message be?
In a speech last week in Pennsylvania, DeSantis said he is focused on winning. “There’s no substitute for victory,” he said. “The winners get to make policy. The losers go home.”