Ron DeSantis’ campaign will move more staff to Iowa in his latest bet on the first caucuses

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign said Wednesday it will move about a third of its staff to Iowa, underscoring the do-or-die importance the Florida governor is placing on the leadoff caucuses.

The development, a little more than three months before Iowa Republicans launch the 2024 nominating calendar, comes as DeSantis seeks to visit all of the state’s 99 counties in an effort to outmaneuver former President Donald Trump. So far, Trump is dominating in Iowa and nationally while DeSantis has seen his national support slip substantially from its high point earlier this year.

DeSantis’ team also said they intended to report raising $15 million during the third quarter of 2023.

Sending about a third of the 56 Tallahassee-based staff to Iowa gives DeSantis by far the biggest organizational footprint in Iowa, where he has had four staff. However, DeSantis’ organizational work in Iowa has been carried out by a super PAC supporting him, which has about two dozen Iowa staffers.

Deputy campaign manager David Polyansky, who has worked on several Iowa Republican presidential campaigns, will be among the first wave of staff to move from Florida, the campaign said.

DeSantis’ strategists think he must beat Trump or come close in Iowa. Other candidates are also trying to finish second in the state. Meanwhile, Trump is holding more events in Iowa with several appearances scheduled in October.

“If we’re able to beat Donald Trump in Iowa, that’s a huge problem for him,” DeSantis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo said.

Having entered the race as the heavy favorite to emerge as Trump’s chief rival, DeSantis was beset by campaign overspending and staffing problems over the summer. Meanwhile, some DeSantis donors had voiced misgivings about his early performance. Former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner defected to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has gained new attention in Iowa and is planning to build out her local staff.

The $15 million DeSantis’ team plans to report for the quarter is less than his $20 million second quarter fundraising total. But aides said the figure reflects that DeSantis has stabilized his campaign after a difficult summer.

The Iowa campaign moves and fundraising total were first reported by The New York Times.