Defend Trump and ‘Hammer’ Ramaswamy: DeSantis Allies Reveal Debate Strategy


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  hallux  •  11 months ago  •  20 comments

By:   Jonathan Swan, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman - NYT

Defend Trump and ‘Hammer’ Ramaswamy: DeSantis Allies Reveal Debate Strategy

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Hundreds of pages of blunt advice, memos and internal polling were posted online by the main super PAC backing the Florida governor, offering an extraordinary glimpse into his operation’s thinking.

Ron DeSantis needs “to take a sledgehammer” to Vivek Ramaswamy, the political newcomer who is rising in the polls. He should “defend Donald Trump” when Chris Christie inevitably attacks the former president. And he needs to “attack Joe Biden and the media” no less than three to five times.

A firm associated with the super PAC that has effectively taken over Mr. DeSantis’s presidential campaign   posted online   hundreds of pages of blunt advice, research memos and internal polling in early nominating states to guide the Florida governor ahead of the   high-stakes Republican presidential debate   next Wednesday in Milwaukee.

The trove of documents provides an extraordinary glimpse into the thinking of the DeSantis operation about a debate the candidate’s advisers see as crucial.

“There are four basic must-dos,” one of the memos urges Mr. DeSantis, whom the document refers to as “GRD.”

1. Attack Joe Biden and the media 3-5 times. 2. State GRD’s positive vision 2-3 times. 3. Hammer Vivek Ramaswamy in a response. 4. Defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack.”

The documents were posted this week on the website of Axiom Strategies, the company owned by Jeff Roe, the chief strategist of Mr. DeSantis’s super PAC, Never Back Down.

The New York Times was alerted to the existence of the documents by a person not connected to the DeSantis campaign or the super PAC. After The Times reached out to Never Back Down for comment on Thursday, the group removed from the website   a key memo   summarizing the suggested strategy for the debate.

Super PACs are barred by law from strategizing in private with political campaigns. To avoid running afoul of those rules, it is not unusual for the outside groups to post polling documents in the open, albeit in an obscure corner of the internet where insiders know to look.

Posting such documents online is risky — the news media or rivals can discover them, and the advice can prove embarrassing. But super PACs often decide the risk is justified to convey what they consider crucial nonpublic information to the candidate without violating the law.

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 — and in such expansive detail, down to the exact estimate of turnout in the Iowa caucuses (“now 216,561”), and including one New Hampshire poll with more than 400 pages of detailed findings.

The DeSantis super PAC and campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Notably missing from the debate materials is a document focused on Mr. Trump. The former president, who has   said he is unlikely to participate in the debate , is also not among the candidates whose previous attacks against Mr. DeSantis were highlighted by the super PAC, in a preview of what he might expect onstage. The main strategy memo for the debate also contains no mention of policy — and the advice steers him away from talking about specific solutions because doing so won’t get him on the evening news.

Key among the documents is one entitled “Debate Memo,” dated Aug. 15, which cynically describes how Mr. DeSantis — who has been battered by critical coverage and has   struggled to capture attention   in the face of Mr. Trump’s indictments — could wring the most favorable media attention from the debate.

Addressed simply to “interested parties,” the memo describes “Roger Ailes’ Orchestra Pit Theory,” quoting   the now-deceased Fox News executive   and political strategist’s well-known maxim that a candidate who lays out a comprehensive plan on foreign policy will draw less coverage than the one who accidentally falls off the debate stage.

To that end, the memo lists “potential Orchestra Pit Moments,” beginning with one drama-making opportunity, complete with a recommendation for a Trump-style insult: “Take a sledgehammer to Vivek Ramaswamy: ‘Fake Vivek’ Or ‘Vivek the Fake.’”

Related documents — one runs nearly 5,000 words across 17 pages — show that the DeSantis operation advises portraying Mr. Ramaswamy as an inauthentic conservative.

Internal polling contained in the trove of documents shows Mr. Ramaswamy surging in New Hampshire, which may have inspired the attack line. Mr. Ramaswamy was at 1 percent in New Hampshire in April but rose to 11 percent in an early August survey, according to the documents.

The debate-prep memo also urges Mr. DeSantis to “defend Trump when Chris Christie attacks him,” with a specific suggestion for an attack line accusing Mr. Christie, the former New Jersey governor, of appealing mainly to Democrats: “Trump isn’t here, so let’s just leave him alone. He’s too weak to defend himself here. We’re all running against him. I don’t think we want to join forces with someone on this stage who’s auditioning for a show on MSNBC.”

The strategy memo also highlights one of Mr. DeSantis’s long-running political vulnerabilities, his reputation for awkwardness or aloofness on the campaign trail, by suggesting that he “invoke a personal anecdote story about family, kids, Casey, showing emotion.”

Mr. DeSantis is keenly aware of his vulnerability in this regard: Leaked videos of his preparation for a 2018 debate for governor, obtained by ABC News , included an adviser telling him that as a reminder to himself, he should write in capital letters at the top of his notepad: “LIKABLE.” Mr. DeSantis, then a congressman, nodded.

The documents published on the Axiom Strategies website also address the delicate way in which Mr. DeSantis should handle Mr. Trump, who remains by far the most popular figure in the Republican Party. They suggest saying that Mr. Trump’s time has passed, and that Mr. DeSantis should be seen as “carrying the torch” for the movement he inspired.

The strategy memo provides Mr. DeSantis with an elaborate script with which to position himself in relation to Mr. Trump.

He could say that Mr. Trump was “a breath of fresh air and the first president to tell the elite where to shove it,” then add that the former president “was attacked all the time, provoked attacks all the time, and it was nonstop.”

Mr. DeSantis could then argue that Mr. Trump, who has now been indicted four times, faces “so many distractions that it’s almost impossible for him to focus on moving the country forward,” and that “this election is too important. We need someone that can fight for you instead of fighting for himself.”

Mr. DeSantis, the memo urges him to conclude, is the only candidate who can keep the Trump movement going.

The memo then supplies   a YouTube link   as “inspiration.” It’s an ad produced by Win It Back PAC, a group linked to the anti-tax organization the Club for Growth that has been spending heavily to run the ad in Iowa. The spot features a man describing himself as a disillusioned former Trump voter, expressing concerns about Mr. Trump’s electability — effectively creating a permission structure for voters to move on from him.

Taken together, the documents reveal the remarkable extent to which the financially struggling DeSantis campaign is relying upon the resources of his super PAC, which raised $130 million in the first half of the year. The outside group is paying for research on Mr. DeSantis’s rivals, strategic insights and polling — all traditionally the work of campaigns themselves.

The documents include detailed research showing how each candidate expected to be on the debate stage has been attacking Mr. DeSantis. They even include a dossier on the low-polling governor of North Dakota, Doug Burgum, warning that he might attack Mr. DeSantis over the “Book Ban Hoax” — a reference to a   law the Florida governor signed last year   that allows parents to challenge books they deem inappropriate for school libraries.

Some of the lengthiest documents in the trove center on Mr. Ramaswamy, Mr. Christie and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina — underscoring the idea that they are the candidates that the super PAC is most focused on.

Mr. Ramaswamy, who has been creeping close to Mr. DeSantis in some public polling, is the only candidate about whom two separate documents described vulnerabilities that Mr. DeSantis could attack. One lays out Mr. Ramaswamy’s past statements about abortion, immigration policy and Covid masks, among a long list of subjects. The other is a lengthy opposition-research document on his positions and past actions.

The polling, conducted by WPA Intelligence in early August, shows Mr. DeSantis in second place in New Hampshire, with 16 percent support, and Mr. Trump ahead but at only 34 percent. Mr. Ramaswamy was in third with 11 percent and Mr. Christie fourth with 8 percent.

But there were other warning signs for Mr. DeSantis in the private poll. His net favorability among Republicans — the difference between the percentage of voters who view him favorably and the percentage who view him unfavorably — had dropped from 65 percentage points in March to 26 points in August. Mr. Scott was seen far more favorably, with a 49-point net favorability.

Importantly, Mr. DeSantis has also declined in terms of serving as Republican voters’ second choice, dropping from 32 percent in March to 17 percent in August, tied with both Mr. Scott and Mr. Ramaswamy.

The internal polling included in the documents about Iowa was less detailed, but appeared to show Mr. Trump leading in the state with 40 percent support, while Mr. DeSantis was at 19 percent and Mr. Scott at 12 percent.

Red Box Rules

Politics has no rules ... ergo ...



jrDiscussion - desc
PhD Principal
1  seeder  Hallux    11 months ago

My advice to DeSantis? Drop out now and give voters a 4 year chance to forget you.

Professor Principal
1.1  devangelical  replied to  Hallux @1    11 months ago

if trump doesn't show up at the debate next week, it'll be a hilarious dog pile on mo-ron...

PhD Principal
1.1.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  devangelical @1.1    11 months ago

Christie will accuse him of hiding in his basement.

Professor Principal
1.1.2  devangelical  replied to  Hallux @1.1.1    11 months ago

ron will be reliving his traumatic childhood while the other candidates take turns humiliating him on national TV.

due to overcrowding at the fulton county jail, new inductees have to wait in the slammer during the booking process. I wonder how much a picture of trump behind bars is worth to the media?

Professor Principal
1.1.3  Tessylo  replied to  devangelical @1.1.2    11 months ago


Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2  Trout Giggles    11 months ago

How about forming at least one workable policy and focus on that?

PhD Principal
2.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Trout Giggles @2    11 months ago

Such as ... We need to be the only party to rule so as the other party isn't the only party to rule?

Professor Principal
2.2  devangelical  replied to  Trout Giggles @2    11 months ago

they don't have any policies the majority of americans can support, thus their creation of even less popular wedge issues to run on. they ran on the price of gas and groceries last time and have done nothing about either. there aren't enough idiots, billionaires and bible thumpers combined to vote them into national office now.

Thrawn 31
Professor Guide
2.3  Thrawn 31  replied to  Trout Giggles @2    11 months ago

You mean put for a real plan or idea to address some of the ACTUAL problems we face instead of just yell  “woke”, “globalist”, “Marxist”, and “groomer” incoherently ? 

I would legitimately be shocked if that happened. 

Thrawn 31
Professor Guide
3  Thrawn 31    11 months ago

So how many times does DeSantis say “woke” or some variation of it in response to a question in order to avoid having to provide some sort of an actual answer?

PhD Principal
3.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Thrawn 31 @3    11 months ago
how many times does DeSantis say “woke”

I think his record is 6-7 times in under 20 seconds.

Professor Guide
3.2  evilone  replied to  Thrawn 31 @3    11 months ago
how many times does DeSantis say “woke” or some variation of it in response to a question

Is this a new drinking game for serious alcohol abusers? 

Thrawn 31
Professor Guide
3.2.1  Thrawn 31  replied to  evilone @3.2    11 months ago

Shit no, I think even I would be hospitalized after about 15mins and I can hold my own at the bar pretty well.

Professor Principal
3.2.2  devangelical  replied to  evilone @3.2    11 months ago

yeah, the first to suffer alcohol poisoning wins...

Professor Principal
4  Gsquared    11 months ago

Now that's a winning campaign strategy.  

Professor Principal
5  JohnRussell    11 months ago
Mr. DeSantis, whom the document refers to as “GRD.”

What is that? Goofy Random Dickhead ? 

Professor Principal
5.1  JohnRussell  replied to  JohnRussell @5    11 months ago

Oh, I've been corrected, it actually stands for Goddamn Rightwing Degenerate. 

Professor Guide
5.1.1  GregTx  replied to  JohnRussell @5.1    11 months ago

Keep going, I'm sure you'll figure it out....

Professor Principal
5.1.2  Gsquared  replied to  JohnRussell @5.1    11 months ago
it actually stands for Goddamn Rightwing Degenerate

Yes, it does and he's known as Goofy Random Dickhead to all his friends that he doesn't have.

Professor Principal
6  Kavika     11 months ago

DeSantis ''we have to protect the children'' as he has ok'ed the use of Prager U in Florida public schools. 

LMAO, he really is stuck on stupid, but he was sent by God to fight for freedom. jrSmiley_10_smiley_image.gif


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