DeSantis Overhauls Campaign Team Amid Struggle to Challenge Trump in 2024 Race
In an effort to revitalize his struggling campaign and challenge the front-runner Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination, Ron DeSantis, the Republican U.S. presidential candidate, has taken a significant step by replacing his campaign manager. Generra Peck, who had been serving as campaign chief since DeSantis launched his candidacy in May, will be succeeded by James Uthmeier, another trusted adviser, as confirmed by Andrew Romeo, the campaign's communications director.
The campaign has recently undergone significant staff changes, which included terminating almost 40 employees and reshuffling various middle and upper-level positions. Despite these adjustments, the campaign has been plagued by concerns from donors and remaining staff members who view it as lacking direction and a clear vision on the campaign trail, as reported by individuals close to the campaign who requested anonymity.
It remains uncertain whether this latest reshuffle will appease DeSantis' allies. Some observers, including Dan Eberhart, a notable Republican donor, believe that the change is not substantial enough, as both Peck and Uthmeier are essentially switching roles within the senior campaign hierarchy. Peck will retain her position as chief strategist.
The need for a more significant transformation in the campaign's dynamics has been emphasized. DeSantis currently ranks second in the Republican nomination race to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 election. However, his popularity has been dwindling in opinion polls over several months, with the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll indicating only 13% national support, a far cry from former President Trump's commanding 47%.
James Uthmeier, a staunch conservative, possesses limited experience with campaigns or electoral politics in general. It's unclear whether he will adopt a more moderate approach, a suggestion made by some donors. Formerly a senior adviser for Wilbur Ross, who served as the secretary of commerce under Trump, Uthmeier has held positions such as general counsel for DeSantis and more recently, his chief of staff.
According to Andrew Romeo, the communications director, James Uthmeier's appointment as a senior adviser is strategic, placing him in a pivotal position alongside Generra Peck and the rest of the team to enhance DeSantis' chances of victory in the primary and against Joe Biden in the general election.
The removal of Generra Peck from her role as campaign manager comes shortly after a prominent donor, Robert Bigelow, conveyed his intention to withhold further donations unless DeSantis adjusts his approach to be more moderate, citing that "extremism isn't going to get you elected." Despite regarding Peck as a competent campaign manager, Bigelow believes that DeSantis needs to adopt a more centrist stance for a competitive chance.
DeSantis faces a crucial juncture on August 23rd in Milwaukee, where the first Republican debate of the 2024 campaign will be held. Notably, Trump has stated his intention to skip the debate, potentially shifting the spotlight onto DeSantis and making him vulnerable to attacks from other candidates.
David Polyansky, a prominent figure at the primary outside spending group supporting DeSantis, is also joining the campaign as a senior adviser, according to an individual familiar with the matter.
The campaign shakeup aligns with DeSantis' past pattern, as noted by Whit Ayres, a Republican operative. Ayres, who was DeSantis' pollster during his run for Florida governor in 2018, highlighted that DeSantis has historically changed campaign staff during his various campaigns. Despite this history, DeSantis faces significant challenges, with Trump's substantial lead in the polls creating an unprecedented obstacle in a competitive presidential primary race.