Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) fundraising numbers are raising new scrutiny as he seeks to close the gap with former President Trump and hold off a newly energized Nikki Haley.
While DeSantis raised $15 million in the third quarter — outpacing his main non-Trump contenders — federal campaign filings showed the Florida governor’s campaign spent nearly all of the money it raised between July and September.
Meanwhile, Haley, a former South Carolina governor, has shown signs of traction with her fundraising in recent months after a pair of strong debate performances, though her overall cash haul for the third quarter still trails DeSantis’s.
Both campaigns must also contend with the reality that Trump continues to eclipse his rivals financially. The former president raised more than $45 million in the third quarter.
The DeSantis campaign argues he’s in a strong position with the third GOP primary debate coming up next month in Miami and the Iowa caucus less than three months away.
“We are the only campaign in this race to have already reserved television in early states during the closing stretch, we are fighting Donald Trump for delegates in Nevada while others have backed down, and our fundraising continues to accelerate in the 4th quarter,” DeSantis campaign communications director Andrew Romeo said in a statement.
“Unlike others, we’re playing to beat Donald Trump and have the resources and organization to do it. That’s why the former president is scrambling to counter the inroads the governor is making in the early states — especially Iowa,” he added.
Romeo noted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that on Monday alone, the Florida governor hauled in more than $500,000 while in Boston — fundraisers of which were first reported by Politico’s Massachusetts Playbook.
The Florida governor is largely still viewed as Trump’s chief rival. He raised $15 million in the latest quarter of fundraising, while Haley raised more than $11 million across her political committees.
But filings from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this month showed DeSantis’s principal campaign committee raised $11.1 million and spent $11 million. The campaign also reported more than $1 million in debt.
DeSantis has only $5 million cash on hand to use in the primary, while Haley has $9.1 million.
The latest numbers have led to renewed attention on the DeSantis campaign’s financial situation. The New York Times reported recently that Never Back Down, a DeSantis-aligned super PAC that had close to $97 million cash on hand at the end of June, was taking on private plane expenses for the governor in a move that eases financial stress from the campaign but raises questions over the legality of the moves.
Meanwhile, some Republican strategists have suggested the latest numbers point to signs of weakness for DeSantis.
“I think that as he ramped up the campaign, his poll numbers ramped down. And rather than demonstrating the ability to defeat Trump in the primary, he consistently got weaker and so he was not able to expand that donor pool,” GOP strategist Jason Cabel Roe said.
“At a minimum, you hope that those core donors will bundle for you or help make the introductions to expand your network, but when you’re sliding in the polls and Trump’s hold seems to get stronger, it’s just very difficult to defy that gravity,” he added.
Still, Roe noted that while the DeSantis campaign’s third quarter filing wasn’t a “great report,” it wasn’t a “terminal” one, either.
The latest FEC filings also don’t capture the fact the DeSantis campaign reshuffled its leadership in August, undergoing two rounds of layoffs before then. The filings also demonstrated private airfare and staff payroll decreased as the quarter progressed, according to a CNN analysis of his expenditures.
And as DeSantis’s campaign increasingly hones in on Iowa, $2 million has been allocated by his campaign for his first TV ad buy in Iowa, set to kick off in mid-November, according to NBC news. The ad tracking firm AdImpact noted earlier this month on X, formerly known as Twitter, that $1 million had already been placed for ads between mid-November and mid-January in the Hawkeye State.
The move comes as the pro-Haley super PAC Stand for America is placing a $6.6 million ad buy in New Hampshire and Iowa, according to Bloomberg. Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) campaign has already advertised in early primary states, the latest of which will extend until the end of November.
And DeSantis allies point to his fundraising haul last quarter as proof of GOP enthusiasm, saying the $15 million the candidate raised across his political groups surpassed the amount raised by his rivals.
“As far as the other candidates other than Trump, he outraised everybody — I mean head and shoulders, not even close. So are the other candidates getting the same treatment? … Are Mike Pence and Tim Scott and Nikki Haley getting the same treatment that Ron’s getting?… I don’t think so,” said Roy Bailey, a former co-chairman of Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign’s finance committee who is backing DeSantis in 2024.
He argued there is enthusiasm for DeSantis and pointed out Never Back Down has been involved in voter contact efforts.
“[We’ve] got new donors every day. We’ve got a finance committee that I would say is second to none,” Bailey said.
Republican strategist and Trump campaign alum Brian Seitchik said DeSantis was still in position to compete in Iowa but noted potential challenges he could face once the campaign looked beyond Iowa.
“The problem is if things do go well in Iowa … how quickly can they turn on the money machine to take the race nationally? Right now, it’s cost-efficient to focus myopically on Iowa, but the map gets quite large and quite expensive very quickly,” Seitchik said.
Meanwhile, DeSantis, Haley and other Republican candidates must contend with Trump, who continues to dominate in polls. DeSantis is ranked second in RealClearPolitics’s polling average of Iowa surveys, while Haley has placed second in RealClearPolitics’s polling average of New Hampshire and South Carolina. In each of those state polling averages, Trump leads both candidates by double digits.
At the same time, the field looks like it’s set to winnow further heading into the third debate as several Republican candidates have not yet met the criteria to make the stage.
Though some of DeSantis’s donors concede that the Florida governor has run an expensive primary bid, they say the stakes warrant it.
“Could he have been more conservative? Sure,” said DeSantis donor Dan Eberhart, referring to the campaign’s spending. “But look who he is running against. There’s no prize for having money left over in your campaign account if you lose.”
Julia Manchester contributed to this report
Updated at 9:27 am