Ron DeSantis is waging a war on ‘woke’ in Florida. It’s costing him billionaire donors in the 2024 race.

As the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis has waged a war on “wokeness,” and the Republican presidential candidate has promised to carry that battle into the White House if elected in 2024. 

But he may be a victim of his own offensive. 

DeSantis has been considered former President Donald Trump’s greatest threat for the Republican nomination. But his campaign has faced setbacks since the outset, from a glitchy launch on X, formerly Twitter, in May to the recent cut of more than a third of his campaign’s staff

The governor’s “anti-woke” agenda doesn’t seem to be reassuring some of his supporters. Two billionaire backers just became the latest to drop their contributions to DeSantis over disagreements with his stances on a slate of social issues. 

Who is fleeing the DeSantis camp?

Deep-pocketed hedge fund CEO Ken Griffin pulled his financial support over DeSantis’ fight with Disney fueled by education policies, namely a law opponents have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay,” the Financial Times reported. The DeSantis administration expanded the Parental Rights in Education Act in May to ban instruction on gender and sexuality for every grade. 

Nelson Peltz, an investor and billionaire businessman, also took a recent step back from the DeSantis campaign. The former supporter of Trump took issue with the governor’s “severe” abortion position, the outlet reported. 

Griffin and Peltz’s withdrawals are just the latest blows to DeSantis’ fundraising. Florida billionaire Thomas Peterffy cut off his support to the campaign in April over similar disagreements. 

“I have put myself on hold,” Peterffy told the Financial Times. “Because of his stance on abortion and book banning … myself, and a bunch of friends, are holding our powder dry.” 

Peterffy has since set his sights on Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, calling him “an ideal candidate” for the GOP and giving a million-dollar check to Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC. Youngkin has not entered the 2024 race for president, saying for now he is focused on Virginia’s state elections in November. 

Even before publicly breaking from DeSantis, Peltz contributed $80,000 to a PAC for Republican candidate and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott

What does a “woke” war mean? 

DeSantis has made social conservatism a cornerstone of his governorship and now presidential campaign. 

He and other Republicans have used the term “woke” to describe a liberal agenda or what they see as being “overly politically correct.” Desantis’ fight against “woke” culture in Florida has included banning abortion after six weeks, blocking an African American Studies Advanced Placement course in high schools and attempting to restrict conversations about race in schools and businesses.  

The governor also has his legal feud with Disney, one of the state’s largest taxpayers and employers, which began with the company publicly opposing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Desantis continues to defend his positions, arguing that he is acting in the interests of voters across the country.

“Standing up for the rights of parents, standing up for the well-being of children, that’s not some quote, culture war. That is central to the lives of tens of millions of people throughout this country,” DeSantis told Fox News. “It is the right thing to do to stand with our kids. It is the right thing to oppose indoctrination in the schools.”

Most recently, DeSantis came under fire over changes to Florida history standards that say enslaved peoples “developed skills” they could use for “personal benefit.” Fellow Republicans, including other presidential candidates, have criticized DeSantis for the new curriculum. 

“What slavery was really about was separating families, about mutilating humans and even raping their wives. It was just devastating,” Scott said after an Iowa town hall. “So I would hope that every person in our country − and certainly running for president − would appreciate that.” 

DeSantis said Scott and other Republicans who have criticized him were “bend(ing) the knee” to Democrats who first spoke out against the new curriculum. The changes to the standards were also a part of his administration’s “fight on indoctrination” and critical race theory in education, he said.

“These standards were born out of the fight against (critical race theory) because this is true history,” DeSantis told Fox News. “So to take something and demagogue it like that, that’s bad faith.”

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