An unspoken, grim reality of presidential fundraising is that it actually sucks. On Wednesday, Ron DeSantis brought 150 or so members of his Day One finance team to the Four Seasons in Miami so that they could arm-twist their friends for money, prior to the official launch of the campaign that evening, which DeSantis would announce during a glitch-ridden Twitter interview with Elon Musk. By the following morning, the bundlers had traded their sports coats for polos, jeans and navy-blue “Day One” DeSantis hats and sky-white DeSantis quarter-zips, as they amped themselves up to pitch their networks. “I need you with me right now,” I overheard one prominent bundler shout into his phone as he began to roll calls. “I’m here in Miami with the next President of the United States.”
Bundling, after all, is a grueling and not always glamorous endeavor. Sure, campaigns will block off 100-plus rooms at luxury hotels for top donors—the lobby of the Four Seasons is undeniably splendid, with a massive bronze Fernando Botero sculpture—and sure, some of the bundlers at the DeSantis gathering flew in on private jets. But the briefings that Democratic or Republican aides give at these affairs—the DeSantis two-day confab was dubbed “Ron-o-Rama”—can be obvious and pedestrian. The private “behind-the-scenes” details aren’t much different from what campaigns message publicly. And badgering friends and contacts to donate up to $3,300 each, as several DeSantis bundlers self-servingly reminded me this week, is work. “Alright, it’s time to work,” one bundler said to another. “Gonna be a lot of work today,” a third told me. There’s much to admire in the fine, and increasingly antiquated, art of collecting other people’s money.
And what do donors—or “investors,” as it said on their lanyards—get in return? People want you to think that there’s palace intrigue surrounding what happens at these events, in ostensibly dimly-lit rooms and on clandestine conference calls. But behind the earpieced security apparatus keeping reporters at bay is mostly standard campaign operation gobbledy-gook, just with better canapés and champagne. As one DeSantis bundler at the Four Seasons confidently told me, the briefing with senior DeSantis officials in the Miami Room was probably something he could read on his phone. That’s why I found him there with me in the lobby, instead.