Down But Not Out in Iowa

Despite enduring months of bad headlines, Ron DeSantis appears to have put his supposed death march on pause.
Despite enduring months of bad headlines, Ron DeSantis appears to have put his supposed death march on pause. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Peter Hamby
August 21, 2023

When a battery of detailed pre-debate documents from the Ron DeSantis super PAC “Never Back Down” found its way into the hands of the national press last week, my texts lit up with an intriguing theory: Was it a headfake? The docs had been quietly posted on the website of Axiom Strategies, the firm operated by Jeff Roe, the strategist running the pro-DeSantis outside group. Because the DeSantis campaign and the super PAC can’t technically coordinate, it was assumed that the outfit quietly left them online so DeSantis aides could grab them and pass certain advice on to the candidate. That’s what campaigns and outside groups typically do to swap material like polling or b-roll footage for campaign ads. 

The New York Times, which broke the story, said the documents had been sitting on the Axiom website for days, until reporters were “alerted to the existence of the documents by a person not connected to the DeSantis campaign or the super PAC.” NBC News also reported on the story shortly after the Times scoop, but they characterized their source in the exact same way, suggesting someone was eager to get these documents in the hands of multiple media outlets.