The Florida governor has not entered the 2024 race yet, but a super PAC supporting him is laying the groundwork for his likely run.
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Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has not yet declared his run for president, but his main allied super PAC has acted as something of a campaign-in-waiting.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and his allies are expanding his political footprint in key states that will begin the 2024 presidential nominating contest, with the main super PAC backing his bid making hires in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and an operative with recent Iowa experience joining the payroll of the Republican Party of Florida.
The Iowa strategist, Sophie Crowell, managed the successful re-election campaign of Representative Ashley Hinson, Republican of Iowa, in 2022, and is now working for the state party in Florida, according to people familiar with her hiring. The party is serving as a way station where Mr. DeSantis has been adding strategists and policy advisers who are expected to eventually work on his likely 2024 run.
Mr. DeSantis has not yet declared his bid, but a pro-DeSantis super PAC, Never Back Down, has acted as something of a campaign-in-waiting, hiring staff members and responding to regular attacks from former President Donald J. Trump. Almost as significantly, it has engaged with mainstream news organizations that Mr. DeSantis instinctively shuns.
The super PAC previously announced that it had raised $30 million in its first three weeks, as major donors poured money into the group in a bid to slow the momentum of Mr. Trump, the Republican polling front-runner.
Never Back Down has begun answering a pro-Trump group’s ads on television and is now building out a team in the important states that kick off the race. David Polyansky, who held senior posts on the 2016 presidential campaigns of former Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, is overseeing the hiring, according to people briefed on the process. The recent hires are expected to constitute only the first wave of additions in early states.
In Iowa, the pro-DeSantis group has hired Tyler Campbell, who previously served as campaign manager for the state’s agriculture secretary, Mike Naig, and now runs his own political consulting firm.
In New Hampshire, the PAC has hired Ethan Zorfas, another veteran of the Cruz campaign and a close ally of the strategist Jeff Roe, who is overseeing Never Back Down’s strategy.
Mr. Zorfas, who served as chief of staff to the state’s last Republican congressman, Frank Guinta, attended Mr. DeSantis’s speech on Friday in New Hampshire at a state party dinner. Mr. Zorfas worked for the congressional campaign of Karoline Leavitt in New Hampshire last year. Ms. Leavitt won the primary but lost the general election and is now working for a pro-Trump super PAC.
In South Carolina, the group has hired Michael Mulé, who runs a political consulting firm in Charleston that has done extensive work in the state and beyond.
Mr. DeSantis’s allies have made clear that he is unlikely to formally enter the race before the end of the Florida legislative session in early May. Mr. DeSantis has more than $85 million remaining in his state-level PAC, which is widely believed to be eligible to be transferred to the super PAC if and when he enters the 2024 contest.
Mr. DeSantis has already traveled to all three early states in 2023 and was in South Carolina on Wednesday, speaking in North Charleston and talking about his “Florida blueprint” for the nation.