It’s only been a few weeks since Jeff Roe and his band of fellow Ted Cruz alumni parachuted into Tallahassee to help reverse Ron DeSantis’s wilting political fortunes, and yet they’ve already picked at an uncomfortable wound in the governor’s tight, sensitive, and less experienced inner circle. Roe’s more seasoned crew, for one, has a far less sanguine view of DeSantis’s current Trump self-defense strategy. They believe that DeSantis can’t just shrug off the former president’s public attacks on him, which coalesce around the notion that he’s an establishment stooge. Trump’s invective may be juvenile but it’s clearly moving the needle on his polling and allowing the former president to craft DeSantis’s public image.
In short, donors and supporters are more concerned that DeSantis isn’t being defended on TV enough. Cable news and Sunday show appearances may seem saccharine and retro in some quarters, but they matter in campaign season, especially on the right. One Trump aide recently provided me with an estimate based on proprietary data suggesting that more than a third of G.O.P. primary voters watch Fox at least three to five times per week.
The longer DeSantis sits on the sidelines, declining opportunities to hit back, the further he falls behind. And if the candidate-in-waiting really wants to hold out his announcement until July 4th, then he’ll need a flotilla of made-for-TV surrogates flooding the green rooms now—especially since the ground has shifted in the wake of the Trump indictment. “DeSantis is so obsessed with Twitter. That doesn’t matter,” said a former Trump aide. “They don’t have a comms operation, they don’t have a genuine surrogate operation.”