Pro-DeSantis super PAC cancels TV ad buys in Iowa and New Hampshire as it shifts focus to ground game

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign event in Newton, Iowa, on December 2, 2023.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign event in Newton, Iowa, on December 2, 2023.Vincent Alban/Reuters/FileCNN — 

The leading super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential bid is canceling its television advertisement reservations in Iowa and New Hampshire and shifting its focus to the ground game in the early nominating states.

According to AdImpact data, Never Back Down on Friday cut roughly $2.5 million worth in future ad bookings it had made in the two states and some national media markets – the latest sign of DeSantis’ allies scrambling to gain traction in the final weeks before voting begins in the January 15 Iowa caucuses.

For weeks, a separate outside group supporting DeSantis’ bid, Fight Right, has been focusing its attention on television ads aiming to give the Florida governor a boost in his quest to narrow the gap with front-runner and former President Donald Trump – even as it seeks to ward off the rising threat of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

A 30-second Fight Right spot goes after Haley’s record on China, concluding, “We can’t trust Tricky Nikki.”

But the decision by Never Back Down to pull its TV advertising underscores the challenges facing DeSantis.

The group’s chairman, Scott Wagner, acknowledged the shift in a statement on Friday, while noting that Fight Right will be running ads instead.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attends the Thanksgiving Family Forum at the downtown Marriott on November 17, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. The Christian faith based forum hosts three Republican Presidential candidates, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Former US Ambassador Nikki Haley to speak on political issues.

Turmoil at pro-DeSantis super PAC overshadows Florida governor’s White House bid at critical moment

Never Back Down is laser focused on its core mission – running the most advanced grassroots and political caucus operation in this race and helping deliver the GOP nomination for Governor DeSantis who will deliver America from the disastrous policies of the Left. We are thrilled to have Fight Right and others covering the air for Governor DeSantis while we work the ground game in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond,” Wagner said.

The latest move comes after Never Back Down has experienced several weeks of turmoil, including the departure of top officials and ongoing criticism of its management of resources.

As CNN reported earlier this month, the group’s initials have become something of a punchline in Iowa.

“What’s NBD mean, No Big Deal?” a longtime Republican official in Iowa said.

Never Back Down, which formed prior to DeSantis entering the White House race in May, received tens of millions in funding that the candidate had stockpiled while governor of Florida, and it has spent over $40 million on advertising so far. The group has also spent millions providing critical campaign infrastructure for DeSantis, hosting rallies, town halls and bus tours in early voting states.

In the meantime, other pro-DeSantis outside groups have also emerged. Fight Right, which has begun spending millions on additional pro-DeSantis advertising, formed after the governor voiced displeasure with Never Back Down’s advertisements in Iowa.

Another new pro-DeSantis group, Good Fight formed just this week, according to Federal Election Commission records, and has already begun placing new ad reservations totaling about $276,000 so far to target Iowa.

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