New reporting from the New York Times reveals that DeSantis’s recent public displays of his MAGA extremism have his billionaire donors pumping the brakes on their donations to his shadow campaign. In particular, DeSantis’s recent comments on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and his signing a more extreme abortion ban have once-eager DeSantis donors pausing to evaluate the rest of the field before fully committing themselves to DeSantis and his extreme MAGA agenda.
Nearly six months ago, Kenneth Griffin, the Republican megadonor and hedge fund executive, seemed poised to be a powerful financial backer of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida in his anticipated run for president.
These days, Mr. Griffin is keeping his cards closer to the vest, and his intentions are harder to discern. A person familiar with his thinking, noting that Mr. DeSantis had not yet made his run official, said Mr. Griffin was still evaluating the Republican primary race as it unfolded.
The financier and Mr. DeSantis met in Florida in the last two weeks, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting, which came as Mr. Griffin has taken issue in private conversations with some of Mr. DeSantis’s policy moves and pronouncements. In particular, the two people said, Mr. Griffin was deeply troubled by Mr. DeSantis’s statements that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “territorial dispute” — a remark he later tried to clarify — and that the war was not a vital U.S. interest.
Mr. Griffin, who has made clear that he wants to move on from former President Donald J. Trump, was also disconcerted by a six-week abortion ban in Florida that Mr. DeSantis recently signed, according to the people familiar with Mr. Griffin’s thinking, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.
What Mr. Griffin does is being closely watched, after word spread of his unhappiness about how Mr. DeSantis had comported himself early this year.
Still, some donors who had hoped Mr. DeSantis could stop Mr. Trump have cooled their enthusiasm.
Thomas Peterffy, a prominent conservative donor, also cited Florida’s abortion law in explaining why he was withholding support from Mr. DeSantis for now. Mr. Peterffy had supported Mr. DeSantis in his state campaigns, and according to one person familiar with the event, hosted Mr. DeSantis at his house early in his first term as governor. But Mr. Peterffy told The Financial Times this month he was holding still, as were some friends.