(Bloomberg) -- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has reeled in wealthy Texas donors once loyal to former President Donald Trump, and he’s heading to the state this week to make another pitch for his struggling presidential campaign.
“There is big Texas money going to DeSantis, all over the state,” said Roy Bailey, a Dallas executive who has hosted several DeSantis fundraisers and once served as the national finance co-chair for Trump’s previous presidential campaign. “The financial support Governor DeSantis is receiving here in East Texas indicates something far different than what the national polls indicate.”
The invitations for the Texas fundraisers include a deep bench of influential donors, indicating a shift in the state from what was once a Trump stronghold to a preference for DeSantis. Among the hosts listed are conservative mega-donor Richard Weekley, Fidelis Realty Partners Ltd’s Alan Hassenflu and Darwin Deason, the founder of Affiliated Computer Services, which he later sold to Xerox for $6.4 billion in 2010.
Texas could prove to be a gold mine for DeSantis’s political operation, which needs to bring in new donors to challenge Trump, the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. Its energy-dependent economy would benefit from DeSantis’s plans to expand domestic fossil fuel production. As a bonus, his campaign finance director, Lauren Lofstrom, is a Texan.
In oil-centric Midland on Wednesday, he’ll unveil his US energy policy, which will also call for reversing President Joe Biden’s efforts to transition to electric cars and renewable energy.
The speech, which will be held with an oil rig in the background, will kick off his appearances in the state. The campaign has been emphasizing his policy chops as it tries to differentiate DeSantis from other GOP candidates.
DeSantis has built up a strong base of support in Texas made up of people who aren’t inclined to support Trump: former supporters of Senator Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential bid, business-focused donors turned off by the former president, and former members of President George W. Bush’s administration.
Texas ranks fourth among states — behind Florida, Nevada and California — for generating the most cash for his campaign and allied super political action committee Never Back Down. The two groups collectively raised $3.1 million from donors there. But a successful three-day tour through the state could quickly multiply that figure.
DeSantis is planning stops in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Tyler and Waco for six separate fundraising events Wednesday through Friday, according to invitations obtained by Bloomberg, in addition to meeting with individual donors.
The fundraising blitz comes at a critical time for the campaign that had been burning through cash at an unsustainable rate over the summer and has faced a steady drop in the polls. To combat these problems, DeSantis fired roughly a third of his staff, replaced his campaign manager and focused most of his time in Iowa. To keep the slimmed-down operation afloat, DeSantis needs more money.
Earlier: DeSantis Camp Hit by Gloom as Aides Worry Race Is Slipping Away
The DeSantis campaign will have to publicly report their third quarter fundraising totals next month. Until then, it’s not clear exactly how much money it has. The campaign touted that the governor raised about $1 million in the 24 hours after the first Republican debate in August, but a spokesman declined to comment on the amount of money on hand.
The Texas trip comes roughly four months before early voting starts in the Iowa caucuses, where DeSantis allies and advisers acknowledge the Florida governor must perform well in order to stay competitive in the GOP primary. Trump, who has been indicted four times, leads him by an average of 43.9 points in national polls, according to RealClearPolitics.
“Polls show President Trump beating Crooked Joe Biden in the general election, while Ron DeSanctus loses to Biden,” said Trump spokesman Steven Cheung, using Trump’s pejorative for the governor. “Americans want to return to a prosperous nation and there’s only one person who can do that — President Trump.”
DeSantis fundraiser hosts disagree.
“The objective is to win the White House in 2024. The Republicans will not win the White House with former President Trump,” said attorney Gaylord Hughey Jr. “The reason I am so confident of that position is that President Trump does not have the support of independents and women, and Governor DeSantis does.”
Hughey is one of 47 hosts for a Thursday lunch for DeSantis in Tyler, a city of about 107,000 people east of Dallas.
Hosts of events in Houston and Dallas include Ira Mitzner of real estate investment firm RIDA Development Corporation; Christopher Zook of CAZ Investments; Jay Adair of Copart, an online vehicle auction company; Monty Bennett, chief executive officer of Ashford Inc., an asset manager for primarily hospitality companies; and Jay Zeidman, a managing partner at the private equity firm Altitude Ventures. It cost $6,600 per person to attend both events.
“At the Houston fundraiser, we have a pretty influential host committee,” said Zeidman. “What excites me is that it is a combination of the usual suspects and next generation donors. I have a lot of peers who for the first time, like me, are writing big checks.”
--With assistance from Bill Allison.
(Updates headline, adds details about energy speech in the sixth paragraph)
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