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Top DeSantis Donor Says He'll Put Fortune Behind 2024 Bid

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IThe past two weeks have been tough for Ron DeSantis. Members of Congress from his own state have been supporting Donald Trump. a cripple ran out of gas During the governor’s trip from South Carolina to South Florida in South Florida, negative headlines and “Where’s Ron?” Meem. he’s been leaving in the elections. And perhaps most threatening to his presidential ambitions – some of his donors are pulling out.

But none of this is shaking the confidence of Robert Bigelow, the hotel tycoon and aeronautics executive, who tells Time that he’s looking for Never Back Down Inc. Co is the largest donor ever, a super PAC supporting DeSantis’ unofficial bid for president. Bigelow, who was biggest donor For DeSantis’ 2022 re-election bid, confirms he has already donated a little over $20 million to Never Back Down. He says this is just the beginning. The super-rich businessman plans to continue flinging his wealth behind sending Florida’s governor to the Oval Office.

Bigelow says, “I’ll give him more money and be without food.”

His initial donation significantly exceeds the $10 million contribution DeSantis made in mid-July. Bigelow, who lives in Las Vegas, says he donated the $20 million on March 27. a senior never back down officer recently told the new York Times That PAC raised $30 million from March 9 to April 3, meaning two-thirds of those dollars came from Bigelow.

A person familiar with Never Back Down’s fundraising confirmed the Bigelow contribution and its share in the PAC’s overall donations over that time period. The source said Never Back Down raised an additional $3 million on Thursday, though they would not say where or who it came from. “It really speaks to the fact that people really want Ron DeSantis to run,” he said.

Bigelow made his fortune by founding the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, and has attracted attention in recent years for large investments in research into UFOs and whether humans have souls that can survive the death of their bodies.

He’s not the only high-net-worth individual associated with DeSantis. Billionaire hedge fund manager and Citadel founder Ken Griffin also plans to financially support Semaphore, the governor of Florida. informed of Tuesday One of the largest political donors in the midterm elections, Griffin gave nearly $75 million to Republican candidates, including $5 million to DeSantis’ war chest.

DeSantis has not yet formally launched a campaign, but he is preparing to enter the race after the Florida legislature ends next month.

Bigelow has donated small amounts to both Republicans and Democrats in the past, but last summer he went all-in on DeSantis. He says it’s because he liked the agenda of his first term, which included his economic conservatism and attacks on “woke culture”, such as Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law that prohibits the teaching of sexual orientation. . Or gender identity in public schools. Bigelow told me, “I completely agree with him on the whole.” “It really shouldn’t be up to the state to motivate the kids. So I completely agree with whatever he has done.”

He doesn’t agree with DeSantis on everything. “I disagree with the governor on the abortion issue,” he says, adding that he supports legal access to abortion through the first trimester of pregnancy. But Bigelow said DeSantis’ restrictive abortion policies weren’t a dealbreaker.

Read more, Where the 2024 Republican candidates stand on federal abortion restrictions

Bigelow, a one-time Trump supporter, says he can no longer stand behind the former president after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. “Trump lost his answer,” he says. “He certainly lost me as a supporter, and as a person who could champion him. He showed, in that particular hour, that he was no commander. He was not a commander at all.

Since Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg prosecuted Trump for allegedly falsifying business records involving secret payments of money made to a porn star, Trump has surged in the polls. a Reuters/Ipsos poll operated The indictment found Trump leading DeSantis among likely GOP voters at 58% to 21% — a gain of 10 percentage points from the week before.

He’s earning a steady stream of support from Republicans in Congress, including 11 members from Florida. DeSantis, on the other hand, has the endorsement of only one Hill legislator from his home state: Rep. Laurel Lee, who previously served as his state’s first secretary. In a brutal act of D.C. savagery, Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas attended a DeSantis event organized by the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, only to emerge minutes later and endorse Trump.

Bigelow believes Trump’s legal woes will hurt him in the general election with moderate and independent voters. “We don’t expect to have Jesus Christ on the ballot,” he says. “But we also don’t expect someone who is riddled with all kinds of criminal charges and civil charges against him all the time that he is going to contest elections. It is not smart.

The former president could also face charges in several other investigations against him, including a Georgia prosecutor’s probe into his efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election and the handling of classified documents by special counsel Jack Smith.

Bigelow’s outspoken support of DeSantis comes in contrast to some other wealthy conservatives. a top mega-donor, Thomas Peterffy, Said financial Times over the weekend that he was halting plans to help DeSantis’ presidential bid because of DeSantis’ proposal to ban LGBTQ-themed books and sign into law a six-week abortion ban. People familiar with the thinking of another top donor, Richard Uhlin, Said NBC News was putting the brakes on: “The polling really gave individual people pause.”

Bigelow, 78, insists Trump will be “more defeated” against President Joe Biden than DeSantis. “Were he really the Republican nominee, it would be a travesty,” he says of Trump.

Yet for all of Bigelow’s affection for DeSantis—and the massive financial boost to his political coffers—the two do not speak regularly. “I communicate mostly through my campaign manager and other senior staff,” he says. It’s an account some may see as validation of Republicans’ concerns Express DeSantis lacks the charisma and magic of retail politics to go the distance in 2024.

In Bigelow’s view, however, there are no other Republicans who can win a hard-fought nomination battle. Bigelow says, “He’s the right man, especially in times like these, as far as the Republican nominee is concerned, I believe.” “He’s going to have the record and he’s going to have the right stuff to be the best candidate for the Republican Party.”

Still, the man from the gambling capital of the world thinks it’s a risky bet that anyone other than Trump could emerge victorious from what still appears to be too much for a Trump-era GOP. But as his charity shows, he’s certainly going to try.

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