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DeSantis campaign pre-debate memo criticizes Trump, is dismissive of other rivals despite polling gap closing

A memo sent to donors Saturday from the presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantiscriticizes former President Donald Trump and dismisses other GOP rivals, even as his own polling numbers drop and remain stagnant.

The memo, first obtained and reported on by CBS News, reassures donors and supporters of the campaign’s confidence in the governor’s standing ahead of next Wednesday’s primary debate in California. It encourages them to “help echo the governor’s message” on social media throughout the debate, and comes as the latest campaign finance quarter ends Sept. 30.

The memo alludes to other GOP rivals who have been catching up to DeSantis in early polling. While it does not name specific opponents, it says the “fundamentals” of the primary race “have not changed since the last debate.”

DeSantis “is the only candidate that can beat both Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and we are the only campaign built for the long haul in terms of resources and organization,” DeSantis campaign manager James Uthmeier writes in the memo.

However – despite the campaign’s confidence – DeSantis has consistently trailed Trump by double digits in national and state-level polling since the first debate, and other GOP rivals have cut into his second place status. A recent CNN-University of New Hampshire poll placed businessman Vivek Ramaswamy (13%), former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (12%), and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (11%), higher than DeSantis, who sat at 10%, in the early presidential primary state.

Uthmeier goes on to claim that Trump has had a “disastrous stretch,” citing Trump’s appearance earlier this month at an Iowa vs. Iowa State college football game — where it appeared some in the crowd were giving Trump a middle finger — to a Sept. 16 interview on NBC News where he said he’d be open to a compromise with Democrats on federal abortion restrictions.

The memo does not outline whether DeSantis himself would directly attack the former president on the debate stage Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

“[Trump] continues to replicate Joe Biden’s campaign-from-the-basement strategy despite his own advisors even acknowledging it will hurt him in Iowa,” Uthmeier writes, referencing Trump’s campaign schedule in the state.

Trump has already said he will skip the second debate, and instead travel to Detroit for a speech amid the United Auto Workers strike against the Big Three automakers.

Trump campaign spokesperson Steve Cheung called the memo “a desperate cry for help from a candidate who is flailing in the polls and has lost all control.”

“His campaign is living in a fantasy land devoid of reality and everyone is laughing at the joke of a campaign he’s running. President Trump is crushing him in the polls, dominating him in early state operations, and the only one who consistently beats Biden in surveys,” Cheung said.

DeSantis in recent weeks has upped his criticism of Trump on a myriad of topics, including abortion and his decision to not attend the debates.

“He owes it to people to make the case and to defend his record. You can’t just not be showing up to these things,” DeSantis said in an interview with ABC News Live.

Allies and supporters of DeSantis thought he had a solid performance at the first GOP debate in Milwaukee in August, but they acknowledge he was often overshadowed by the constant crossfire between Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, Christie or Haley.

“I’m sure everybody wishes their candidate got more time, but I thought he used his time spectacularly well, looked very presidential, stayed above the fracas going on across much of the rest of the stage,” Ken Cucinelli, the founder of pro-DeSantis super PAC “Never Back Down,” told CBS News after the debate.

A trove of polling, memos and opposition research from Never Back Down revealed in the week before the first debate, led to some conflict between DeSantis and the outside group. And while his campaign was expecting and preparing for him to receive the brunt of the attacks from other candidates, he was largely ignored, and left Milwaukee unscathed.

In an interview on Friday with Iowa radio host Simon Conway, DeSantis said that while the debates are important, he doesn’t think “most voters are making up their minds in September.”

“I think that they’re gonna make ’em up as we get into the new year,” he adds.

DeSantis Campaign Pre-Debat… by Faris Tanyos

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