Donald Trump's allies are sharpening their knives against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' wife as they try to snuff out his presidential ambitions, and even the Florida governor's former aides and donors are piling on.
Casey DeSantis plays a crucial role in her husband's political rise and counts as his most trusted adviser, but several former administration staffers and even the governor's 2024 supporters complained that her influence isn't always helpful, reported Politico.
“She is both his biggest asset and his biggest liability, and I say biggest asset in that I think she does make him warmer, softer,” said Dan Eberhart, a DeSantis donor and supporter. “But he needs to be surrounded with professional people, not just her."
“I’ve heard from staffers frustrated that they think the governor’s made a decision, he talks to her, comes back, the decision is the opposite or different,” Eberhart added. “The sad part is I think she’s very smart. I think she’s very talented. But she also needs to realize if they want to play on this stage, they need serious help. I worry that winning the gubernatorial race, winning the re-elect, has made her overconfident in her ability to de facto run a presidential campaign.”
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Eberhart suggested she take a “take a more traditional role" as a presidential candidate's wife, meaning that the former TV reporter and anchor remain "active and visible" but not necessarily the "architect" of his campaign, but staffers who worked for DeSantis don't see that happening.
“He’s a leader who makes political decisions with the assistance of his wife, who was elected by nobody, who’s blindly ambitious,” said one former DeSantis administration staffer, "and she sees ghosts in every corner.”
A second former staffer agreed.
“She’s more paranoid than he is,” that staffer said.
One of the knocks against DeSantis has been his dour persona, and a former campaign official said the first lady fed into that.
“He’s a vindictive motherf*cker -- she’s twice that,” said a former high-ranking campaign official. “She’s the scorekeeper.”
DeSantis also has difficulty with retail politics, which former staffers say his more outgoing spouse does well, but they said she's not especially warm to those around the couple.
“Does she sort of humanize the robot?" said a former gubernatorial staffer. "Does she push him on the grip-and-grin, the baby-kissing, give him a cleaner, softer image? Yes. Does she also feed into his, I guess, worst instincts, of being secluded and insular and standoffish with staff? Yes.”
David Jolly, a former GOP congressman from Florida who's now an MSNBC analyst, recalls an interaction he had with Casey DeSantis when he and DeSantis were both running for Senate in 2016, and his elderly mother asked the couple if she could take their photo as a keepsake -- which they agreed to do and the older woman thanked them.
"Casey turns and snaps at my mom and says, ‘I better not see that photo in any opposition research,” Jolly recalled, calling the first lady an ice queen. “Both ice and queen are doing the work there.”
Consultants, lawmakers and lobbyists all agreed that one of the major mistakes DeSantis made on his recent trip abroad was putting the first lady in an even more conspicuous role, which some sources said diminished the governor.
“I have never received so many messages from Republicans, from Republican consultants, from lawmakers … saying, ‘What is going on here?’” a consultant said.
“To me,” one lobbyist agreed, “and I think to a lot of other people, it kind of comes across almost as if she wishes that she was the elected official.”