The latest shakeup saw top officials leave the pro-DeSantis super PAC group

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Three senior members of a super PAC are backing the Florida governor. Ron DeSantis Saturday’s departure from the group is the latest sign of instability within the 2024 political movement of hopefuls, six weeks before the Iowa Republican caucuses.

Christine Davison has parted ways with Never Back Down after leading the group following the departure of CEO Chris Jankowski two weeks ago. Communications director Erin Perrin and operations director Matt Palmisano left on Saturday, two people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity to discuss Never Back Down’s inner workings. Davison’s departure was first reported by Politico.

Scott Wagner, a longtime DeSantis partner who was a member of the group’s board, was named interim CEO and chairman of the board.

Since announcing his candidacy in May, Never Back Down has shouldered much of DeSantis’ presidential organizing duties and advertising burden. The shakeup of its leadership comes as pressure mounts to cut DeSantis, the former president It’s Donald Trump Big lead in Iowa and nationally. And more voters and donors are considering supporting former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley’s campaign.

DeSantis’ campaign relies heavily on Never Back Down for basic campaign operations, although the two parties cannot coordinate directly under federal campaign finance rules. DeSantis visited 99 counties in IowaAccording to the group’s schedule, he appeared in 92 Never Back Down events.

Jankowski, who was one of the people who initially helped conceptualize the super PAC’s outside role, resigned on Nov. 22. Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who chaired the committee, left the committee on Friday.

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Some of those close to the situation saw the departures as a radical move by DeSantis loyalists to reassert control over Never Back Down.

The super PAC received more than $80 million from DeSantis’ political accounts this spring, but, once he became a formal candidate, DeSantis and his campaign were legally barred from having direct control over the group or the money.

Instead, it was run by Jeff Roe, a Republican political consultant who earlier this year had little relationship with DeSantis, but Texas Sen. He had close ties to Ted Cruz and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngin. Major Republican clients.

Never Back Down’s staff was — and still is — staffed directly from Roe’s company, Axiom Strategies. They include Perrin, Matt Woelking and Jessica Szymanski, who were apparently still on board Saturday, as were other senior staff members.

It was unclear late Saturday if Rowe was part of Never Back Down. Roe did not return multiple messages to comment on his position or the departure of others from the group.

Another top player at Axiom, David Polianski, moved from the super PAC in August to deputy manager of DeSantis’ campaign, though his new role — permitted under federal law — fits DeSantis’ new emphasis on Iowa, where Polianski served as president and president. Statewide campaigns.

Never Back Down has more than two dozen staffers working in Iowa, more than any campaign or super PAC, and has been organizing pilot-level caucuses since June. Most of that work goes on without a hitch, even if employees leave at the top.

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For those who know DeSantis well, the growing tension between the Florida governor’s loyalists and Roe’s team is no surprise.

DeSantis has long struggled to maintain close ties to political advisers. Having cycled several times in recent years, his wife Casey is widely seen as his closest adviser.

“Scott Wagner will now serve as chairman of the board and interim CEO of Never Back Down,” the group said in an emailed statement. “Never Back Down 2024 has the most organized, advanced caucus activity of any in the primary field, and we look forward to continuing that excellent work to help elect Governor DeSantis as the next President of the United States.”

Trump celebrated the announced departures, posting on his social media site.

“People are dropping like flies on the Ron DeSanctimonious campaign,” he wrote.

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People from New York report. Associated Press writers Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, and Michelle L. in Des Moines, Iowa. Price contributed to this report.

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