Aug 17, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis debate memo urges him to "hammer" Ramaswamy and defend Trump

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis takes the stage during one of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds' "Fair-Side Chats" at the Iowa State Fair on August 12, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis takes the stage during one of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds' "Fair-Side Chats" at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 12 in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis should act as former President Trump's defender if "[former Gov. Chris Christie] attacks him" during next week's Republican presidential primary debate, according to a memo from DeSantis allies.

Driving the news: "Trump isn't here so let's just leave him alone," said the memo as an example of a response to Christie. It was posted to the website of Axiom Strategies, which works for the DeSantis-aligned Never Back Down super PAC.

  • The New York Times first reported on the existence of the memo and trove of documents on Axiom Strategies' website. The memo has since been removed from Axiom's website.

Zoom in: The memo lists four "overarching goals" for DeSantis during the debate.

  1. Attack President Biden and the media
  2. "Hammer" Vivek Ramaswamy, with "Fake Vivek" suggested as a nickname
  3. Share his own "positive vision"
  4. Defend former President Trump

A spokesperson for DeSantis' campaign said that the document "was not a campaign memo and we were not aware of it prior to the article."

  • "We are well accustomed to the attacks from all sides as the media and other candidates realize Ron DeSantis is the strongest candidate best positioned to take down Joe Biden," the spokesperson said.

The big picture: The debate memo and other documents provide rare insight into DeSantis' plan for the first Republican debate.

  • Trump has not yet said whether he will attend next week's debate — and in his absence, DeSantis, who is currently second in polls, would be at center stage.

Between the lines: Super PACs are not legally allowed to coordinate with a campaign, so it is not unusual for outside groups to "post polling documents in the open, albeit in an obscure corner of the internet where insiders know to look," the New York Times writes.

  • "But it is unusual, as appears to be the case, for a super PAC, or a consulting firm working for it, to post documents on its own website," the Times writes.

Go deeper: DeSantis replaces campaign manager in staffing shakeup

Editor's note: This story was updated with a statement from a DeSantis campaign spokesperson.

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