DeSantis Super PAC Begins Layoffs as He Shifts Focus to South Carolina


The super PAC supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida in the presidential race began carrying out layoffs on Wednesday, even as the campaign insisted he had a path forward and essentially chose to bypass next week’s New Hampshire primary in favor of competing in South Carolina.

It was unclear how many people the super PAC, Never Back Down, was letting go. Those who were laid off immediately had their email accounts suspended. The group had spent heavily on a vast field operation in Iowa, taking over many of the responsibilities of a traditional campaign, but Mr. DeSantis lost the state’s caucuses to former President Donald J. Trump on Monday by 30 percentage points.

The cuts appeared to trim the super PAC’s operations beyond New Hampshire and South Carolina, with officials in Nevada, the third nominating state, let go in addition to those working in states that will vote in March.

A majority of Mr. DeSantis’s campaign staff is moving to South Carolina, and he will leave New Hampshire after his events today, according to a senior campaign official, who insisted on anonymity. Mr. DeSantis will return to Florida and then campaign in South Carolina over the weekend, though it was unclear whether he would squeeze in a last-minute New Hampshire stop early next week before the primary election on Tuesday.

The move is a sign that he has given up on competing in a moderate-leaning state where his poll numbers are abysmal. Recent surveys have found his support to be in the single digits, far behind Mr. Trump and Nikki Haley. He will instead make a stand in the Palmetto State, whose conservative voters might be more closely aligned with Mr. DeSantis’s message.

The South Carolina primary is not until Feb. 24. CBS News earlier reported that Mr. DeSantis would largely skip New Hampshire in favor of South Carolina.

Mr. DeSantis was denied his best chance at exposure in New Hampshire when Ms. Haley turned down two debates scheduled for Thursday and Sunday.

One of those who was laid off at Never Back Down, George Andrews, who had been assigned as a caucus precinct operations director in Iowa but also listed himself on LinkedIn as a state director in California, posted on the career website that he had been let go.

“As of 6 am this morning, I learned I am now a free agent due to budget cuts beyond my control,” Mr. Andrews wrote in a post on LinkedIn.

“I completely understand why this had to happen, harbor no ill will, and wish my former team great success as they attempt to bring back sanity to our party,” he wrote. “What they are trying to accomplish for America is much greater than my termination as an individual employee.”

An official with the group appeared to confirm the layoffs, saying that those affected were being paid through the end of January.

The official, who did not speak on the record, added that the group was “evaluating and paring down” other consultants, vendors and some staff members who had been focused on various aspects of the group’s work.

Scott Wagner, the chief executive of Never Back Down, issued a statement saying that the group continued to host events for Mr. DeSantis, but he did not address the question of layoffs.

“Never Back Down continues to host a slew of events on the ground for Gov. DeSantis in South Carolina, New Hampshire, and beyond aligned with our core mission of mobilizing grass-roots field operations in those state,” Mr. Wagner said. “We’ve mobilized several members of our robust Iowa team over to the other early primary states to help in these efforts and will continue working to help elect Gov. DeSantis, the most effective conservative leader in the race, our next President.”

Jonathan Swan contributed reporting.



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