Republican donors who have opened their wallets for Donald Trump are now backing Ron DeSantis as he bids to win a second term as governor of Florida, it has emerged.
New campaign filings obtained by Politico show that DeSantis, 43, has received $3.4 million from 10 donors who collectively spent $24 million on Trump’s reelection bid.
Many of those who donated had never contributed to state-level Florida elections before, and include Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus, 93, who gave DeSantis $500,000. In 2016, he was one of Donald Trump’s most generous donors, contributing $7 million.
The analysis comes as Trump, 76, faces increasing questions about whether he could beat DeSantis in 2024, if the ambitious governor decides to challenge him.
Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are seen in November 2019. Many Republican megadonors are now backing DeSantis in his November re-election bid
Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus has given DeSantis’s campaign $500,000
Uihlein and his wife Elizabeth have contributed in excess of $30 million combined over two decades
Who’s backing DeSantis?
William Buckley, a retired venture capitalist with a home in Lost Tree Village, Florida, has given $1m.
Richard Uihlein, an Illinois-based businessman who has given more than any other Republican so far to the 2022 campaigns, and is known as one of Trump’s biggest backers. He has given $1.2m to DeSantis.
Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus, 93, who gave DeSantis $500,000. In 2016, he was one of Donald Trump’s most generous donors, contributing $7m.
Steven Witkoff, real estate investor, gave $100,000 – his first time contributing to a Florida state campaign.
Willis Johnson, a Tennessee billionaire who founded a vehicle auction and salvage company, gave $100,000.
Las Vegas casino mogul and Trump friend Phil Ruffin, who has known Trump for 20 years, gave DeSantis $100,000.
Texas oil baron Kelcy Warren, who spent $10 million backing Trump in 2020, has also given DeSantis $50,000.
Larry Garatoni, an Indiana businessman, has given DeSantis $35,000.
Geoffrey Palmer, a Los Angeles developer, spent $6 million to help Trump’s 2020 campaign, and has given DeSantis $20,000.
Ken Griffin, billionaire hedge fund manager, has given DeSantis $5 million for 2022 – making him one of his biggest backers.
Jeff Yass, a Pennsylvania billionaire, has also given DeSantis $100,000.
Trump told The New Yorker, in an article entitled: ‘Can Ron DeSantis displace Donald Trump as the G.O.P.’s combatant in chief?’, that he was responsible for DeSantis’s political career.
‘If I didn’t endorse him, he wouldn’t have won,’ Trump said.
The article said that DeSantis was sometimes described as ‘Trump with a brain’.
On Monday night, asked again whether he would beat DeSantis in 2024, Trump told Newsmax: ‘I was very responsible for him getting elected.’
Big money is following DeSantis, however.
His backers include Richard Uihlein, a midwestern shipping magnate, who with his wife Elizabeth has contributed in excess of $30 million combined over two decades.
He has given more than any other Republican so far to the 2022 campaigns, and is known as one of Trump’s biggest backers.
Uihlein was also one of the biggest financial backers of the January 6 pro-Trump ‘March to Save America’ rally, held before the Capitol riot.
Uihlein has given $1.2 million to DeSantis, Politico reported.
Another major donor is William Buckley, a retired venture capitalist with a home in the Palm Beach enclave of Lost Tree Village. Buckley has given $1 million to the governor’s campaign.
Those dipping their toes into Florida campaigns for the first time include Steven Witkoff, real estate investor, and Willis Johnson, a Tennessee billionaire who founded a vehicle auction and salvage company. Both gave DeSantis $100,000.
One of Trump’s closest friends, casino magnate Phil Ruffin, 82, is also now donating to DeSantis’s campaign.
Ruffin gave Trump $2.5 million for his 2016 election; this year, he has given DeSantis $100,000.
Other Trump donors now backing his younger potential rival include Texas oil baron Kelcy Warren, who spent $10 million backing Trump in 2020, has also given DeSantis $50,000.
Larry Garatoni, an Indiana businessman, gave Trump $500,000, and has given DeSantis $35,000.
Geoffrey Palmer, a Los Angeles developer, has given DeSantis $20,000 this cycle, having spent $6 million in 2020 to help Trump’s reelection.
DeSantis, pictured on June 16 in Miami, insists he is focused on the 2022 race and not thinking about 2024
Trump is seen with casino owner Phil Ruffin in Las Vegas in July 2005. Ruffin is now donating to DeSantis’s campaign
DeSantis has amassed a campaign war chest of $100 million, setting new records, and leaving him well positioned to turn those funds to 2024.
One of his biggest backers is Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder of Chicago-based Citadel, who backed Trump in 2016 but not in 2020.
The 53-year-old has spent $40 million on the 2022 elections, and is the top-ranking donor to Republican causes, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Griffin has given DeSantis $5 million for 2022, and has said he will not support Trump if he runs again.
Willis Johnson, a Tennessee billionaire, has given DeSantis $100,000
Whether DeSantis would run against Trump remains unclear.
Earlier this month, a straw poll held during the Western Conservative Summit in Aurora, Colorado – a gathering of 2,000 people in person and thousands more over the internet – approved DeSantis over Trump.
Among the respondees, 71 percent said they approved of DeSantis, compared to 67.7 percent who approved of Trump.
Neither Trump nor DeSantis has yet officially declared for 2024.
‘The interesting thing about me is people will always inject my name into it, just based off what I’m doing in Florida,’ DeSantis told Fox News on June 13.
‘It’s a little bit different for me. I think there’s obviously people that, the minute 2020 ended, have been basically running, and they’re going around doing all that stuff.
‘That’s just not what I’ve been doing. I’ve just been focusing on the task at hand.’
DeSantis is not being challenged internally.
His main Democrat rivals are former Governor Charlie Crist and Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, with the primary on August 23.