Ron DeSantis, the incredible shrinking candidate
Ron DeSantis has entered the weight-loss phase of the Republican primary campaign. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below.

The first FEC filing of the DeSantis campaign is a microcosm of how things are going for the governor. Rich people like him a lot, but rank-and-file Republicans aren’t warming up to him.

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At first glance, the second quarter fundraising numbers for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis were strong enough. Just like in the polls, he is firmly in second place, trailing only former President Donald Trump in the race for the Republican nomination.

But, once you kick the tires, a different picture emerges… and it is one that matches what polling has already told us: Voters are just not warming up to DeSantis.

When you are trying to overtake a populist like Trump in his own lane, that’s a real problem.

DeSantis Learns the Hard Way That He Can’t Outtrump Trump

Wealthy establishment Republicans, on the other hand, like the governor well enough. His first Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing shows that the bulk of his money comes from rich donors, many of whom are maxing out their contributions already.

Unfortunately for DeSantis they only get one vote each in the primary.

While these rich benefactors can give a candidate a big shot in the arm to start a campaign, in order to keep it going you need an army of small-money donors who contribute again and again.

They are the lifeblood of a campaign.

And this is where we can find perhaps the biggest red flag in the governor’s filing.

Of the $20 million DeSantis raised since jumping into the race, only $2.8 million came from people who gave less than $200.

That indicates a lack of grassroots support.

In contrast, a higher share of the total — $3 million — came from wealthy individuals who had already reached their $3,300 contribution limit for the primary but then wrote another check for the general election.

However, that money is useless for the campaign right now because it can only be spent in the increasingly unlikely event that DeSantis is nominated.

Furthermore, the filing also shows that donations have slowed significantly already after the first few days following the governor’s official announcement that he is seeking the GOP nomination.

Add it all up, and it is clear why that first FEC report is a microcosm of the campaign itself: Plenty of enthusiasm from rich people who want to get rid of Trump and very little support from rank-and-file Republicans who want the same thing.

In addition, the filing also shows that the narrative of the race is getting away from DeSantis. The governor wants to portray his campaign as an inexorable force and himself as an anti-woke warrior who is the only serious alternative to Trump.

However, news keeps emerging that tells a different story: After just a few weeks, the campaign is already taking on water.

Earlier this week, we reported that DeSantis was thinking about changing his media strategy, and Politico broke a story saying that the governor had let go few staffers to reduce very high operating costs, such a treating himself to lavish travel (when rich supporters were not gifting him the flights).

Each of these pieces of news is a part of the puzzle. And when you put all of them together, it becomes clear that the DeSantis campaign isn’t a juggernaut but rather a jugger-not-so-much.

The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Ron DeSantis caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0) and background (Shannon McGee / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0).

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