Go After Vivek, Defend Trump: Inside DeSantis’s Debate Strategy

Ahead of a crucial debate, insider memos show Ron DeSantis’s strategy

What’s happening: Just days out from the first Republican debate, a trove of released documents offers insight into Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s strategy.

  • The plan: Target Vivek Ramaswamy, go on the offensive against President Joe Biden and the press, and even defend Donald Trump against attacks. Then, present himself as a standard-bearer for the MAGA movement going forward.

The memo: The documents — prepared and released online by Axiom Strategies, a group affiliated with DeSantis’s super PAC — shy away from policy and prescribe plans of attack for each of DeSantis’s opponents. Due to rules against coordination between PACs and campaigns, the documents were released publicly, yet in an obscure way intended only for campaign insiders.

Plan of attack: The memo said DeSantis should brand Ramaswamy as “Fake Vivek,” with another document listing examples of Ramaswamy’s previous or current controversial positions, from increasing immigration to his business deals with China.

  • Hitting back? After The New York Timespublished the release of the documents, Ramaswamy responded, calling DeSantis “Robot Ron” and a “Super PAC-creation.”

Why it matters: The Florida governor’s team sees his performance next Wednesday as “crucial” as his poll numbers continue sinking. Sometimes, debate showings can make or break presidential campaigns. They could be wrong though, as 2024 is shaping up to be the first election without much cable news influence, as a fragmented media landscape reshape the race.