DeSantis forms new fundraising effort as Iowa showdown looms

By James Oliphant and Alexandra Ulmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has largely pinned his presidential hopes on a top finish next month in the early voting state of Iowa, on Thursday formed a new national finance effort to help spur donations and try and keep pace with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

The move comes as the most recent poll in Iowa, which holds its first-in-the-nation nominating contest on Jan. 15, showed Trump leading by about 30 percentage points over DeSantis, with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley slightly behind in third place.

The new financial advisory board will be co-chaired by Texas businessman Roy Bailey; Nick Iarossi, a Florida lobbyist and close DeSantis confidant; and Michael McClellan, a lawyer from Southern California, and will oversee a newly-formed national finance committee.

The group includes “some of the best and most experienced political fundraisers and donors in the country,” Bailey told Reuters.

Haley, who has been gaining in polls both in Iowa and nationally, has seen her fundraising blossom since a series of well-received debate appearances. The SFA Fund Inc, a pro-Haley super PAC funded by wealthy donors including former WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum, has spent over $21 million on ads and mailings backing her White House run in the last three months.

DeSantis is counting on a strong Iowa finish to convince Republicans in New Hampshire, South Carolina and other early-voting states to give him a second look as an alternative to Trump.

The Republican nominee will face President Joe Biden, a Democrat, in the November 2024 general election.

The DeSantis campaign has been plagued at times by money woes, forcing it to retrench and lay off some workers. But it raised a competitive $15 million in the last fiscal quarter and recently brought in $2 million in a 48-hour stretch, the campaign said.

The new fundraising effort may be a move by DeSantis and his advisors to inject more muscle into the day-to-day campaign rather than relying on outside super PACs such as Never Back Down, which recently saw the departure of several top officials over disagreements on campaign strategy.

(Reporting by James Oliphant and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Alistair Bell)