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Ramaswamy dismisses ‘professional politician’ DeSantis after ‘sledgehammer’ strategy for debate revealed

The memo suggests the Florida governor call Ramaswamy ‘Vivek the Fake’ as DeSantis’s poll numbers decline

Eric Garcia
Washington, DC
Thursday 17 August 2023 22:13 BST
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Businessman and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy pushed back after The New York Times reported about a memo from a super PAC supporting Ron DeSantis showed the Florida governor planned to attack him.

Axiom Strategies, which works with Never Back Down, a super PAC that supports Mr DeSantis, released a bevy of research memos on its website to give advice for the governor ahead of the first primary debate in Milwaukee.

One of the memos outlines “four basic must-dos” for Mr DeSantis, whom the memos refer to as “GRD,” saying he would need to attack fellow candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who has begun to ascend in the polls against Mr DeSantis.

“1. Attack Joe Biden and the media 3-5 times. 2. State GRD’s positive vision 2-3 times. 3. Hammer Vivek Ramaswamy in a response. 4. Defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack,” the memo said.

The Republican presidential candidate and political neophyte pushed back on the memo when asked about it on Fox News.

“I think the GOP sometimes, when you have professional politicians, they use attacks on other candidates as a substitute for a message of their own,” he said. Mr Ramaswamy also said that Mr DeSantis was controlled by donors to the PAC.

“I think we have a choice between super PAC puppets who are being propped up with prepped lines and millions of dollars to go along with it, versus in my case, I’m an outsider,” he said.

Jeff Roe, a chief strategist for Never Back Down, owns Axiom. Mr Roe served as the campaign manager for Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) when Mr Cruz won the 2016 Iowa caucus and came in second behind Mr Trump. When The Times reached out to Axiom, the firm removed the memo from its website.

“When GRD's name is invoked and he is given a chance to respond, there are two approaches,” the memo says. “1. When there is a core attack on GRD's central candidacy (calling GRD a liberal, hitting veteran record, hitting conservative record), GRD should take the time, correct the record, and highlight the positive/dismiss the attacker if it's a tier one candidate. GRD can also pivot to hitting Joe Biden when possible.”

The memo also says when another candidate attacks Mr DeSantis but does not make a “core” attack, Mr DeSantis should pivot and take up time.

“GRD should ignore the weak attack , not even address it, and instead pivot to message and vision and name check Iowa, New Hampshire, etc. voters directly ‘Iowans/Americans , I'm talking directly to you now,’” the memo says.

Super PACs cannot officially coordinate with candidates. But Never Back Down has featured Mr DeSantis and his wife Casey at multiple events as a guest. Candidates can use memos that Super PACs release publicly.

The memo says that Mr DeSantis should attack Mr Ramaswamy, who has started gaining steam by adopting talking points similar Mr DeSantis’s against “wokeness,” as “FakeVivek” or “Vivek the Fake.”

A new Fox News poll showed that since June, Mr DeSantis has fallen by six points to 16 per cent in terms of whom Republican primary voters prefer to be the nominee for president. The same poll showed that in June, five per cent of GOP primary voters preferred him to be the nominee, but that number has grown to 11 per cent.

The memo also said that Mr DeSantis should defend Mr Trump when former New Jersey governor Chris Christie attacks the former president.

“Trump isn't here so let's just leave him alone. He's too weak to defend himself here. We're all running against him. I don't think we want to join forces with someone on this stage who's auditioning for a show on MSNBC,” the memo suggests Mr DeSantis say.

The memo also suggested that Mr DeSantis, who has often been portrayed as awkward or impersonable, “[i]nvoke a personal anecdote story about family, kids, Casey, showing emotion.”

In addition, the campaign memo showed how Mr DeSantis could simultaneously defend Mr Trump but pivot to get people to support him.

“Many voters , like me, voted for Donald Trump, love Donald Trump,” he said. “He was a breath of fresh air and the first president to tell the elite where to shove it. But he was attacked all the time, provoked attacks all the time, and it was non-stop. The drama affected families. Trump's drama pitted brother against brother, friend against friend. He's got so many distractions that it's almost impossible for him to focus on moving the country forward.”

Republicans will hold their first debate on Wednesday in Milwaukee. Fox News will host the debate.

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