Speaking of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' campaign in particular, billionaire Ken Griffin said, “I don’t know his strategy. It’s not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to"
Another prominent donor for Republican Ron DeSantis is taking a step back from contributing to the Florida governor's 2024 presidential campaign, saying he's "still on the sidelines as to who to support in this election cycle."
CNBC reports that billionaire Ken Griffin gave more than $100 million to state and federal candidates (the bulk of them Republican) during the 2022 midterms. In 2021, he gave $5 million to a political action committee backing DeSantis’ gubernatorial reelection bid.
But Griffin isn't excited by DeSantis' presidential campaign — nor is he excited by any other Republican candidates facing off against former President Donald Trump next year.
“Look, if I had my dream, we’d have a great Republican candidate in the primary who was younger, of a different generation, with a different tone for America," Griffin, the CEO of Citadel, told CNBC’s Sara Eisen in a Monday night interview. "And we’d have a younger person on the Democratic side in the primary, who would have his message for our country.”
Speaking of DeSantis' campaign specifically, Griffin told CNBC: “I don’t know his strategy. It’s not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to.”
DeSantis has made a national name for himself by wading into America's culture wars and focusing on things like restricting voting rights, enacting Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law, politicizing the concept of critical race theory, pushing to ban gender-affirming medical care, refusing to order COVID vaccines for young children, and scolding students wearing masks.
But his extreme positions on things like book bans and abortions — and a more-than-year-long fight with Walt Disney World — have been the final straws for some donors.
Griffin's remarks to CNBC come on the heels of previous comments he made signaling he was rethinking his support of the DeSantis campaign and was allegedly troubled by the governor's support of the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill and his fight with Disney, which the billionaire called "pointless."
Griffin further said that DeSantis' feud with Disney — a cultural and tourism juggernaut that produces a more-than $75.2 billion annual economic impact for Florida — "doesn't reflect well on the ethos of Florida."
Griffin's stance signals another financial challenge for the Republicans in a long shot bid to defeat Trump, who has a considerable advantage in current polls.
Optimism about a DeSantis campaign was high among many Republican insiders following his November 2022 landslide reelection as governor, which came as candidates endorsed by Trump suffered losses throughout the country during the midterms.
But that optimism was quickly overshadowed by Trump's continued popularity among Republican voters, even as the former president finds himself enmeshed in myriad indictments and investigations.
As Trump's star power threatens to eclipse his challengers, 45-year-old DeSantis has seen several wealthy mega-donors step back from offering their financial support.
In July, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that Nelson Peltz, a billionaire businessman and the father of actress Nicola Peltz Beckham, is among those "rethinking" their support for the Florida governor.
Peltz, who was expected to be a huge financial asset to the campaign, allegedly "thinks that most of DeSantis’s policies are acceptable, but his position on abortion is way too severe," a source told the Financial Times.
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Then in August, hotel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow told Reuters he, too, was "still on the fence" about supporting DeSantis.
“Extremism isn’t going to get you elected," Bigelow said, adding: “He does need to shift to get to moderates. He’ll lose if he doesn’t."
As Reuters noted, Bigelow gave $20 million to the pro-DeSantis PAC Never Back Down in March. But for now he's pulling back, telling the outlet he won't continue to fund the campaign “until I see that he’s able to generate more on his own.”
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