Nov 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Top DeSantis donor kicks the tires on switching support to Trump

Former President Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Trendsetter Engineering Inc. on Nov. 2 in Houston, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' biggest 2024 donor is considering throwing his support behind former President Trump, the Financial Times reports.

Why it matters: It's a blow to the Florida governor, who has struggled to grain traction against the former president — and already almost exhausted his maxed-out donors at the end of the third quarter.

Driving the news: "I've got to look at who would probably be the strongest commander, with the most experience ... And that's only one guy," Robert Bigelow, a hotel entrepreneur, told the Financial Times in an interview out Wednesday.

  • "Who would you want as a commander? I'd want somebody that would be a hell of an ass kicker if he needed to be," he said.
  • "On the face of it, you lean toward Trump."
  • "I think Trump is too strong," Bigelow told the FT of a Trump-DeSantis matchup, although he noted Trump needed to stay out of jail.

Zoom out: Bigelow earlier this year became the biggest donor of the super PAC supporting DeSantis, Never Back Down, giving more than $20 million.

  • He told the Financial Times that he thinks "Trump has the momentum, the inertia, to beat him."
  • He called Trump a "bull," but said that DeSantis was "dinner."

Between the lines: Roughly three-quarters of all of DeSantis' fundraising came from donors who can't give anymore in the primary because they gave the maximum primary amount of $3,300, per a Politico analysis.

  • The DeSantis campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Flashback: In August, Bigelow told Reuters that he would stop donating to DeSantis unless he garnered more new donors and took a more moderate approach, especially after he signed a bill banning abortion after six weeks.

  • "He does need to shift to get to moderates. He'll lose if he doesn't ... Extremism isn't going to get you elected," he said in August.

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