Jeff Roe, chief strategist for the major super PAC supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis' presidential bid, resigned Saturday night, the latest and perhaps most significant departure for the group, which has been consumed by turmoil in recent weeks.
Since the day before Thanksgiving, the pro-DeSantis super PAC, which calls itself Never Back Down, has seen the resignation of a CEO and a board chairman; the dismissal of a second CEO, along with two other senior officials; and now Mr. Roe's late-night resignation. All of this came after intense infighting and accusations that DeSantis fell in the polls.
“I can't believe it all ended this way,” Mr. Roe said. wrote in a statement posted on X on Saturday night. News of Mr. Roe's resignation was first reported by The Washington Post.
His decision to resign followed comments from the super PAC's new board chairman, Scott Wagner, a DeSantis loyalist and Florida appointee. Wagner had explained to the Washington Post why the previous executive director and two other people (all of whom had worked for Roe) had been fired.
Wagner accused them of “mismanagement and conduct problems,” as well as “numerous unauthorized leaks.” The Post reported that an attorney for those employees contacted Wagner, who then revised his statement to add protection to those allegations.
“I cannot, in good conscience, remain affiliated with Never Back Down given the statements in the Washington Post,” Roe wrote in a statement. He said he still hoped DeSantis would be the next president and praised the Never Back Down team as “political warriors.”
Wagner did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
From the beginning, Never Back Down has been something of a Frankenstein's monster in its composition, with Roe and some of his top lieutenants forced to coexist with a decision-making board made up mostly of old friends and DeSantis loyalists. The agreement has raised questions about the extent to which the campaign and super PAC have adhered to rules prohibiting coordination.
Former President Donald J. Trump, who was in Las Vegas for a UFC fight and who routinely mocked Roe in private, celebrated the departure in a post on his social media site, Truth Social. “Jeff Roe is out: GAME OVER for DeSanctimonious,” he wrote.
The future of the internal operations of Never Back Down, which had raised more than $130 million as of July, is unclear. Roe's allies hold many of the group's top positions, and his company, Axiom, has helped staff early state super PAC efforts. It is unclear if everyone remains in place.
News that Mr. Roe was leaving the super PAC began to spread shortly before 8 p.m. on Saturday. But Roe and several people connected to Never Back Down did not respond to multiple messages seeking confirmation. Roe eventually gave the news to The Washington Post and published it in X.
Roe had long irritated DeSantis with unwanted headlines, including a New York Times story about a memo chronicling the candidate's debate strategy before the first primary debate that was posted on his company's website and later was removed after the Times. he found out about it. The campaign found the existence of the memo embarrassing.
Later in late August, Roe was secretly recorded meeting with donors offering them tens of millions of dollars, as well as saying that DeSantis needed to beat Trump over the next 60 days.
The Trump campaign has seized on the “60 days” comment, referring to it in an often cruel daily email as Roe’s “kiss of death.” That 60-day period has passed and DeSantis is still far behind the former president in the polls.
Never Back Down has been hampered by infighting for weeks, as top officials resigned or were fired. DeSantis and his team were unhappy with the group's operations, particularly its focus on television advertising, and had signaled they wanted it to work more substantially to get out the vote.
Tensions reached a breaking point in November when a trio of DeSantis loyalists formed another super PAC, Fight Right. Never Back Down's board of directors committed $1 million to that group, and shortly thereafter, initial CEO Chris Jankowski resigned, followed by the resignation of board president Adam Laxalt.
The person named as Jankowski's replacement, Kristin Davison, was later fired, along with two other senior officials.
DeSantis has since met with potential Fight Right donors and his campaign manager wrote a memo calling the group the preferred entity to do his political advertising. The new super PAC's first ad attacked Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina by invoking past comments she had made about Hillary Clinton, a line of attack the campaign had just featured prominently in its own anti-Haley materials.
Although DeSantis entered the race as Trump's main rival, his campaign has faltered in recent months. Haley has now tied or surpassed DeSantis in many early state polls.
The constant drama at the super PAC has angered some campaign staffers, who see it as a constant and unnecessary distraction. The campaign itself was once the source of that drama, suffering massive layoffs and seeing the promotion of a campaign manager who had never worked on a campaign.
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