Ron DeSantis will hold three fundraisers in Pa. next week as he tries to regain momentum for his campaign

Ron DeSantis is looking to cash in on Pennsylvania next week.

The Florida governor, who remains in a distant second place behind former President Donald Trump in Republican presidential primary polls, will attend three fundraisers across the state on Tuesday.

The Pennsylvania trip is a rare visit outside of the early voting states and comes as DeSantis looks to fund his recently rebooted and refocused campaign. It also offers a glimpse into which Republican fundraisers have lined up behind him in the key swing state. They hope DeSantis can appeal to voters fatigued by Trump or wary he can’t win — and that he can still gain momentum, even as Trump’s lead shows little sign of abating.

“There are a lot of primary-voting Republicans who voted for President Trump in 2016 or 2020 who are going to vote for someone else,” former GOP gubernatorial candidate Guy Ciarrocchi, who is hosting one of the DeSantis fundraisers said. “They’re ready to move forward, and they’re interested in winning.”

DeSantis, who left the campaign trail Sunday to address multiple crises in Florida, including Hurricane Idalia, is currently still slated to make the tripTuesday. It was unclear Tuesday whether the storm would impact the events or DeSantis’ travel plans.

He is scheduled to attend a breakfast in Harrisburg, a lunch in Altoona, and an evening reception in Pittsburgh, all ticketed events with high-dollar donations.

Three fundraisers in one day

DeSantis is stopping in Pennsylvania as an underdog to become the Republican nominee. But it’s not clear if the state — with a relatively late primary — will even play a role in the nomination process. Pennsylvania could move up its date but for now is somewhat removed from the action, and its voters are likely less familiar with the candidates than in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the campaigns have been camped out for months.

“It’s a bold move coming back here and saying, ‘I’m going to do three fundraisers in one day,’” Ciarrocchi said. “But it speaks to him knowing he has a base of support here.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in Harrisburg in April. He’s scheduled to return to Harrisburg for a campaign fundraiser next week.. … Read moreTyger Williams / Staff Photographer

Hosts for Tuesday’s events also include former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, state Sen. Greg Rothman, Buffalo real estate executive Nick Sinatra, Cumberland County GOP committee chair Lou Capozzi, and former Trump delegate Alexandra Anastasio.

Donations range from $500 for individuals to $11,600 to join the host committee.


“He’s the best chance of beating any Democrat, including Joe Biden,” Barletta said, dismissing concerns about DeSantis’ recent campaign reset.

“Campaigns are marathons, and there’ll be lots of changes from now until Election Day in everyone’s campaign.” he added.

There have been some optimistic signs for DeSantis since he replaced his campaign manager and revamped his strategy. Following the first Republican debate last week, his campaign reported bringing in more than $1 million in 24 hours. He’s received consistent media attention since agreeing to more mainstream news interviews.

But several candidates had standout moments on the debate stage, so he’ll need to thin the crowded field.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, at the primary debate hosted by Fox News in Milwaukee this month.. … Read moreJoshua Lott / The Washington Post

DeSantis will likely lean into some distant family roots during his Pennsylvania visit. His father is from Aliquippa and his maternal grandfather was born in Edinburg, both towns in Western Pennsylvania. His parents met across the border at Youngstown State University in Ohio.

In his memoir, DeSantis says he was “geographically raised in Tampa Bay but culturally my upbringing reflected the working-class communities in western Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio — from weekly church attendance to the expectation that one would earn his keep. This made me God-fearing, hard-working and America-loving.”

DeSantis is looking to build on fundraising momentum

DeSantis has attracted a lot of money from big donors, and he’ll look to do more of that next week. DeSantis has raised a total of $20.1 million so far, second in the GOP field behind Trump’s $36 million, according to campaign finance reports that reflected all donations through June. While Trump’s fundraising includes a significant number of small-dollar donations, DeSantis has relied more heavily on large contributions from wealthy supporters.

Pennsylvania ranked fifth for both DeSantis and Trump in large-dollar fundraising, with both raising similar shares of their fundraising dollars from the state.

One positive sign for DeSantis might be how quickly he was able to raise money: His campaign brought in more than $520,000 from big Pennsylvania donors just between his May 24 announcement and the end of June, as compared to $830,000 for the Trump campaign over the entire first half of the year.

Both DeSantis and Trump have relied heavily on the wealthy, populous counties of southeastern Pennsylvania for fundraising, bringing in 42% and 35% of their big-dollar donations, respectively, from the five-county region. But unlike Trump, whose financial support was well-distributed across the state, DeSantis has also depended on funds from Allegheny County and the Scranton area.

DeSantis’ dilemma: How to build a majority

Trump has long enjoyed considerable support from Pennsylvania Republicans. He led DeSantis by 18 points in the state in a recent Franklin and Marshall poll. But among all of the state’s registered voters, 64% viewed Trump unfavorably while 34% viewed him favorably in the survey, taken in mid-August.

DeSantis has tried to appeal to voters in a fracturing Republican Party who supported many of Trump’s policies, pitching himself as the more competent, less erratic version of Trump. Most political strategists estimate a little more than one-third of Republican primary voters are Trump loyalists, with about a quarter unwilling to vote for him and the remainder persuadable. That’s largely reflected in polling, as well.


“The challenge for DeSantis or anyone else is how to build a majority out of the remaining Republicans and at the same time make sure the people supporting President Trump are welcome on the team when you’re the nominee,” Ciarrocchi said.

DeSantis overwhelmingly won reelection in Florida in 2022, an otherwise tough year for Republicans. At 44 with a young family, he can appeal to voters frustrated by the idea of a matchup between Trump and Biden, who are 77 and 80.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis leaves the Union League in January after he was honored with the group’s gold medal, first awarded to President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It was one of a few trips he’s made to Pennsylvania this year.. … Read moreTom Gralish / Staff Photographer

But his persona as the nation’s leading culture warrior has turned off some more moderate Republicans. DeSantis signed one of the strictest abortion bans in the country in Florida, cracked down on LGBTQ rights, and changed how schools teach lessons about race and African American history.

DeSantis’ challenges as a candidate, compounded by the question of Trump’s viability as he faces four criminal cases, makes it difficult to gauge where Republican voters may land.


“It’s like measuring the temperature during a storm,” RNC national committeeman Andy Reilly said.

Reilly, the former chair of the Delaware County GOP, is unaligned but said he thinks DeSantis or former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley could be best positioned to beat President Joe Biden. Still, he noted, it’s early.

“The more time he spends here, people will get to know him better,” Ciarrocchi said of DeSantis. “If he focuses on what he did for Florida, talks about growing the economy, improving education and growing a welcoming Republican Party — that’s a message that sells in Paoli, Punxsutawney, and Pittsburgh.”

Staff writer Aseem Shukla contributed to this report.

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