On Tuesday afternoon, at around 2:00 p.m., a small army of G.O.P. officials, billionaires, and their attachés gathered at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach to hear from the two masterminds behind the last Republican presidential candidates standing. There was Betsy Ankney, the crafty campaign manager for Nikki Haley, who is racing to secure more money to continue her fight with Donald Trump. But the more surprising attendee preceded her: It was Trump’s own venerated campaign chief, Susie Wiles, who presumably drove the four miles down Ocean Boulevard from Mar-a-Lago to walk them through her slideshow.
The dueling, back-to-back presentations were the highlight of the semiannual meeting of the American Opportunity Alliance, a vigorously low-profile, highly influential network of Wall Street-aligned donors and their handlers, full of cocktail receptions, pitch sessions and, most importantly, poolside gossiping. In an age when so many billionaires are inclined to send their surrogates to do their dirty work, the A.O.A.—as it’s universally known in big-money politics—is one of the few summits to actually merit the time of its bold-faced members. On Monday night, Paul Singer, Ken Griffin, Warren Stephens, and Chuck Schwab had a fireside chat in a private room at a nearby high-end restaurant, I’m told, where they regaled guests with their perspectives on everything from Ukraine to inflation to “wokeness” in higher education. The words “Donald Trump” were barely uttered, if at all, sources tell me.