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Billionaire who once backed DeSantis is staying ‘on the sidelines’ in GOP primary


A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that former Illinois governor Bruce Rauner contributed to Nikki Haley’s campaign. He said he supports her run for president. This article has been corrected.

Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, who has contributed millions to Republican campaigns, told CNBC that he has no immediate plans to donate to any GOP presidential primary candidates — including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who he once said he would back.

The hedge fund leader said in an interview with the network, scheduled to air Monday evening, that he has not found any of the candidates trailing front-runner Donald Trump to be particularly compelling. He added that he would like to see the two major parties nominate younger candidates to “have a debate around ideas and principles and policies.”

“I’m still on the sidelines as to who to support in this election cycle,” Griffin told CNBC. “Look, if I had my dream, we’d have a great Republican candidate in the primary who was younger, of a different generation, with a different tone for America.”

With Griffin on the sidelines, none of the GOP hopefuls trying to gain ground on Trump can count on benefiting from the deep pockets of a man worth $35 billion. The business executive donated $100 million to state and federal campaigns ahead of the 2022 midterms, CNBC reported.

Griffin’s decision is specifically bad news for DeSantis: Griffin told Politico in November that he would back the Florida governor if he made a run for the White House, saying DeSantis has a “tremendous record as governor.” Now, Griffin says he doesn’t understand DeSantis’s 2024 strategy.

“It’s not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to,” Griffin told CNBC.

DeSantis’s star has fallen in recent months. He has support from 14 percent of Republican primary and caucus voters, according to a Washington Post average of polling completed after the first Republican primary debate, compared with Trump’s 55 percent. In July, DeSantis averaged 21 percent.

In addition to Griffin, other top contributors to DeSantis’s 2022 reelection campaign have backed away from him in the presidential race. Walter Buckley Jr. has donated to former New Jersey governor Chris Christie after previously saying he would be “right beside” DeSantis. Former Illinois governor Bruce Rauner touted former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley’s campaign.

DeSantis has faced additional challenges in recent weeks. The Republican Party’s Florida arm voted last week not to require presidential primary candidates to promise to support the eventual nominee. That outcome means that Trump, who has refused to make a similar pledge on the national level, can appear on the ballot in DeSantis’s home state without signing a state-level oath.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took a swipe at DeSantis, saying he expects Trump to be the Republican nominee because he is stronger now than he was ahead of the 2016 or 2020 elections.

“I served with Ron DeSantis,” McCarthy said in an interview that aired Sunday on Fox News, referring to DeSantis’s time in the House. “He’s not at the same level as President Trump by any shape or form.”

On Monday, DeSantis said McCarthy is right that he and Trump are different — because Florida runs budget surpluses while McCarthy and Trump added $7 trillion to the national debt.

“It’s understandable that the DC Establishment doesn’t want me to be president — and I wear that as a badge of honor,” DeSantis wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Trump also has gotten many more high-profile endorsements than DeSantis. On Monday, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) became the 11th senator to publicly back Trump. Several former governors and dozens of House members have also endorsed the former president.

Emily Guskin and Hannah Knowles contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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