Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has demoted and replaced the manager of his 2024 presidential campaign, the latest move in his campaign “shakeup” to improve his chances in his fledgling run for the GOP nomination.
Generra Peck, who led DeSantis’s reelection campaign for governor in 2022 but who had never worked on a presidential campaign before this year, will step aside as manager and become chief strategist for the campaign instead. Peck will be replaced by longtime DeSantis confidante James Uthmeier, the governor’s chief of staff.
Uthmeier’s appointment would be puzzling if not for the fact that he’s a trusted ally of DeSantis. According to The New York Times, Uthmeier has “little campaign experience,” and it’s unclear as yet what changes he will bring to the campaign.
Uthmeier will not resign from his government office during his new role, but will take a “leave of absence”.
This transition is part of a third round of shakeups at the DeSantis campaign in less than a month, a response to DeSantis’s failure to gain on GOP frontrunner former President Donald Trump, who is running for president for the third time in as many campaign cycles.
According to an aggregate of national data compiled by RealClearPolitics, Trump is presently leading DeSantis by an average of 38 points in the polls. DeSantis has also fared poorly against Trump in states that are set to host the first nominating contests in the Republican primary — in Iowa, for example, DeSantis is down by an average of 27 points, while Trump leads the Florida governor by an average of 24 points in New Hampshire.
The DeSantis campaign has struggled to take off since its inception. His campaign announcement, which took place live on the social media site formerly known as Twitter, was laden with glitches and delays, resulting in thousands of users logging off before it was over. The campaign experienced another embarrassing roadblock in late July, when it was forced to fire a staffer who had produced and shared on social media a pro-DeSantis video including neo-Nazi imagery.
Peck’s ouster is likely due in large part to his failure to raise money for the campaign, which resulted in the firing of 40 percent of the campaign’s staff last month. Notably, some donations to the campaign were illegal, including one from a Canadian financial services firm, and the improper transfer of tens of millions of dollars from a DeSantis state-based PAC to a super PAC backing his presidential run.
Like DeSantis, Uthmeier is prone to controversy. He was in direct communication with individuals who tricked migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. into traveling to Martha’s Vineyard last year, under the false pretense that jobs and shelter would be waiting for them upon arrival. Uthmeier has also been the subject of an ethics complaint alleging that he coordinated an effort to use state executive branch officials to raise money from lobbyists for DeSantis’s campaign. That move shocked lobbyists in the state, as many had felt obligated to donate to DeSantis because they had business being considered by the governor’s administration.
Placing Uthmeier in charge of the campaign signals that DeSantis will likely seek to reset his presidential run by doing what initially won him the attention of GOP voters: spewing violent and fascistic rhetoric and embracing controversy at every turn. Just this week, DeSantis promised to “start slitting throats on day one” of his presidency if he’s elected, suggesting, in no uncertain terms, that he would fire federal government employees if they failed to show allegiance to him.