Ron DeSantis spent more than $7,000 per vote in Iowa before dropping out of 2024 race

Super PAC supporting Florida’s governor spent more than $130m before dropping out after one primary contest

Alex Woodward
Thursday 01 February 2024 18:25 GMT
Ron DeSantis ends presidential campaign and endorses Donald Trump

Campaigns and political action committees backing Ron DeSantis spent more than $160m for the Florida governor to come in second place in just one 2024 primary contest.

That staggering sum from Federal Election Commission filings on Wednesday amounts to roughly $7,000 per vote in the Iowa caucuses.

Never Back Down, the central super PAC backing Mr DeSantis’s campaign for the Republican nomination for president, spent roughly $131m supporting his campaign last year, records show. His campaign spent another $28m.

He withdrew from the race earlier this month following his second-place finish at the Iowa caucuses, where he came nearly 30 points behind Donald Trump – with 23,420 votes.

Never Back Down raised $145m in 2023, but only $14m in the second half of the year. Mr DeSantis’s campaign raised $6.7m and spent $9.3m, records show.

The Independent has requested comment from Mr DeSantis’s campaign and Never Back Down.

Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters in Iowa on 15 January.

Never Back Down pumped an enormous amount of resources into Mr DeSantis’s campaign in Iowa, with millions spent on a much-publicised canvassing operation as the campaign travelled across the state in a bid to beat Mr Trump in the opening shot of the 2024 race. The PAC also spent millions on other campaign necessities, from research and media support to charter buses, private jets and rally stage equipment, records show.

Months after his campaign launch, announced in a Twitter Spaces event with Elon Musk, several campaign staffers were fired as the campaign burned through nearly $8m while struggling to meet fundraising goals.

Tensions between the PAC and Mr DeSantis’s campaign appeared to boil over by December, with Never Back Down adviser Jeff Roe leaving his post after a story in The Washington Post detailed internal disputes.

“I cannot in good conscience stay affiliated with Never Back Down given the statements in the Washington Post today,” Mr Roe said in a statement at the time. “They are not true and an unwanted distraction at a critical time for Governor DeSantis.”

Another report depicted Mr Roe’s replacement Scott Wagner constructing a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle at the PAC’s headquarters in the days before the Iowa caucuses.

Mr DeSantis – who endorsed Mr Trump in a video announcing the end of his campaign earlier this month – ultimately dropped out of the race before New Hampshire’s Republican primary, where Mr Trump received roughly 53 per cent of the vote, with rival Nikki Haley earning 43 per cent.

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