A recently formed super PAC that would likely serve as the main outside political group supporting Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' potential run for president is bringing on board a veteran GOP strategist who’s served as the top campaign consultant for Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
Jeff Roe, who heads up the formidable Axiom Strategies, is joining the Never Back Down PAC as a senior adviser, multiple Republican sources with knowledge of the move confirmed to Fox News.
The super PAC is being chaired by Ken Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general and the 2013 GOP gubernatorial nominee who later served as acting deputy homeland security director during the last two years of the Trump administration. After coming on board the super PAC, Cuccinelli quickly held meetings with prominent conservative leaders in early voting states in the GOP presidential nominating calendar.
Cuccinelli, in an exclusive interview last week with Fox News Digital in New Hampshire, emphasized that he’s "trying to provide an organizational center with the super PAC so that people can start getting ready if he [DeSantis] does decide to get in, which looks likely… that we’ll already have prepared the ground for him and he’ll be off and running to a much faster start than he otherwise could have pulled off."
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DeSantis remains on the 2024 sidelines, but is widely expected to enter the race. In an interview that will run Thursday on Fox Nation, the Florida governor said "stay tuned" when asked about his political future.
Roe’s addition to the Never Back Down PAC gives the organization another campaign trail veteran, joining executive director Chris Jankowski, another longtime Republican operative. According to GOP sources, the super PAC will be headquartered in Atlanta.
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The news regarding Roe, which was first reported by Politico, raises further doubts about Youngkin’s national ambitions. Roe and Axiom Strategies were instrumental behind the scenes in Youngkin’s 2021 victory in Virginia’s gubernatorial election, which helped make the first-time candidate from the business wing of the GOP an instant Republican superstar. Pundits have viewed Youngkin as a potential contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Roe, in an appearance in February on Fox News’ "Fox News Sunday," said he viewed the GOP presidential nomination race as a two-person battle between Trump and DeSantis, but later said those comments were not a reflection of a potential Younking campaign. He’s also indicated that his firm would likely work for only one presidential candidate in the 2024 cycle.
A source in Youngkin’s political orbit told Fox News that Roe’s decision to join the pro-DeSantis super PAC is "not really" a sign that Youngkin is out of the 2024 mix.
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Roe was the top consultant on Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, when the conservative firebrand from Texas fiercely battled Trump for the GOP nomination, ending up as runner-up to the former president. While Cruz initially flirted with another White House run in 2024, he’s made it clear in recent months that he’s running for re-election in the Senate next year.
Super PACs, known as independent expenditure-only committees, are legally allowed to raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, and to spend unlimited sums to support or oppose political candidates. Unlike traditional PACs, they are prohibited under long-standing federal rules from either coordinating or contributing directly to a candidate or candidate's campaign.
Two existing super PACs – "Ready for Ron" and "Ron to the Rescue," which are not affiliated with DeSantis or his political circle – are already up and running, raising money as they urge the governor to launch a presidential campaign. But sources in DeSantis' wider political orbit have described those groups as "a grift – plain and simple."
Two sources familiar with DeSantis’ political world told Fox News this month that Never Back Down PAC would likely have the governor’s blessing should he go forward and run for the White House.
DeSantis saw his popularity soar among conservatives across the country over the past three years due to his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a culture warrior going after the media, corporations and teachers' unions.
The governor scored an overwhelming 19-point gubernatorial re-election victory in November, and in recent speeches he has pitched policy victories in Florida as a roadmap for the entire nation. He’s been traveling across the country, highlighting his "Florida blueprint" and promoting his newly released memoir, "The Courage to Be Free."
Sources in DeSantis’ wider orbit have said any presidential campaign launch would come in the late spring or early summer, after the end of the current legislative session. However, the governor’s latest travel itinerary to the early voting states of Iowa and Nevada and a trip next month to New Hampshire are sparking more 2024 speculation.