DeSantis’s New Donor Defiance

It appears Ron DeSantis isn’t stopping at abortion as he seeks to remake Florida as the state where “woke goes to die.”
It appears Ron DeSantis isn’t stopping at abortion as he seeks to remake Florida as the state where “woke goes to die.” Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/AFP
Tara Palmeri
April 17, 2023

I know I’m not the only reporter whose phone has been burning up with incoming calls from major Republican donors who are mortified that Ron DeSantis actually signed a ban on abortion after six weeks, which is well before the point most women even know they’re pregnant. Since DeSantis signed the legislation, some five days ago, Florida billionaire Tom Peterffy said aloud, in conversation with the Financial Times, a version of a line I’ve been hearing for weeks: “Myself, and a bunch of friends, are holding our powder dry.” Another major donor suggested that Peterffy was sending a message to his fellow mega donors: I don’t like this, and we need to win, so we may need to move on. Sorry, Ronny.

Some donors have been delusional, telling themselves that DeSantis was simply forced to sign the bill to placate the rabid Florida legislature, which was leveraging their power over his ability to stay in the statehouse while running for federal office, like they did previously for Senators Rick Scott and Charlie Crist. But I’ve checked in with multiple leaders in the state legislature at the highest level, and that notion is a farce. DeSantis knows it’s bad general election politics to turn his campaign into another referendum on Roe v. Wade, these people say, but he also sees it as the only way to win the primary election against Trump. 

And even though he declined to sign onto a federal six-week ban bill when he was in Congress, in 2017 and 2018, now people around DeSantis say he’s a true pro-lifer. Those people also said he was growing frustrated hearing Kristi Noem and others insinuate that Florida, with its 15-week ban, was becoming an abortion sanctuary in the south. (It also allegedly bothered DeSantis that there was a 30 percent uptick in abortions in Florida after Dobbs.) In short, he did this because he wanted to, though he seemed to acknowledge the terrible optics by signing the bill without media present at 11 p.m. on Thursday night, unlike exactly one year ago, when he signed the 15-week ban before the press at a church with a banner stating “Florida Is Pro Life.”