CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Never Back Down, the leading super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ presidential campaign, installed its third general director in less than two weeks on Friday, according to five people familiar with the latest developments in this slow reshuffle.
Scott Wagner, a longtime DeSantis loyalist, took over as chair of the super PAC. Two of the people with knowledge of the move said Wagner was serving as interim CEO.
Wagner replaced interim CEO Kristin Davison, who was fired, the sources said. Davison, a key strategist at Never Back Down since its inception, held the top job for nine days after original CEO, Chris Jankowski, left his post at the end of last month.
Davison did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment. Erin Perrine, a spokeswoman for Never Back Down, did not respond to a phone call seeking comment. His profile on social media site X no longer mentions Never Back Down.
The change at the top of Never Back Down was first reported by POLITICO on Saturday evening.
Super PAC behind the scenes personnel movements would not normally merit much attention. But never back down – launched before DeSantis entered the campaign and largely financed by transfers from his political account in Florida, as well as contributions from his major donors — played an outsized role in DeSantis’ bid for president, often overshadowing the official campaign.
And The chaos within the super PAC reflects frustration within DeSantis’ orbit over his failure to gain traction in the Republican primary.
He’s running far behind former President Donald Trump in national polls and is now trying to push former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in Iowa ahead of the nation’s top caucus.are January 15th. Haley is in second place in New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to several polls.
On November 21, NBC News revealed a fight between Wagner and Jeff Roe, the lead consultant for Never Back Down, that nearly turned physical.
“You have a stick in your back, Scott,” Roe told Wagner, then just a member of the Never Back Down board.
“Why don’t you come here and get him?” Wagner responded by getting up from his chair, according to a person in the room. Wagner was ultimately retained by the other board members.
But Wagner took the upper hand – for what that’s worth – at Never Back Down. DeSantis’ disappointment with the super PAC led to the creation last month of a second super PAC, Fight Right, which now focuses on the outside world. advertising boosting his campaign. And Davison’s departure is a major blow to Roe’s influence, as she was a top deputy at his company, Axiom, before joining Never Back Down as director of operations.
The timing comes as DeSantis celebrates Saturday the completion of a 99-county tour of Iowa that was underwritten by Never Back Down and conducted largely aboard a super PAC-branded bus.
Dasha Burns reported from Cedar Rapids; Matt Dixon reported from Tallahassee, Florida; Jonathan Allen reported from Tilghman, Maryland.