In his third staff shakeup in less than a month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis replaced his embattled presidential campaign manager with one of his most trusted, and most conservative, advisers: his gubernatorial office’s chief of staff, James Uthmeier.
Outgoing campaign manager Generra Peck will remain as chief strategist on the campaign as part of the restructuring. Peck guided DeSantis’s blowout reelection bid last year, but she quickly became the subject of criticism from DeSantis advisers and donors in mid-July after his presidential campaign stalled and money dried up.
The campaign then twice cut staff and expenses and retooled DeSantis’s press strategy to make him more available to the mainstream media.
But donors and some outside advisers weren’t satisfied, leading DeSantis last week to ask Uthmeier to diagnose problems with the campaign and see if he could fix them. Ultimately, it led the governor to ask Uthmeier to take the job.
Uthmeier was also a key man in the governor’s celebrated flight of four dozen migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard and was seen in Tallahassee as a bridge between the governor’s political and official worlds.
The DeSantis campaign has been ineffective against President Donald J. Trump, whose legal hurdles have dominated the headlines and created a binary choice between Trump and President Joseph R. Biden Jr. a year before Republicans award their presidential nomination in Milwaukee.
As DeSantis cut from his political side, both Uthmeier and Peck were active in facilitating the lifeboats for the out-of-work campaign workers with jobs on the official side.
The DeSantis campaign attempted a reboot in the last few weeks by streamlining its expenses and fine-tuning its message away from the Florida Blueprint towards a more national narrative.
The message reboot was evident in the DeSantis economic plan, his shedding of any vestiges of what the Left calls 2020 election denialism, and his stepping back from the protests at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The message plays to DeSantis’ natural strength with college-educated Republicans, who hold less tolerance for political static.
Peck, an acolyte of Phil Cox, was the campaign manager for DeSantis’ 2022 reelection campaign, which the governor won over Democrat Charlie Crist by 19 points, but that was then.
The 2022 race was considered a field test for a 2024 presidential run, as DeSantis barnstormed the state’s 10 media markets despite his comfortable lead in the polls and fundraising advantages.