Monday, May 27, 2024

Jeff Roe, the chief strategist for the leading super PAC supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis’s presidential bid, resigned on Saturday night, the latest and perhaps most significant departure from the group, which has been consumed by turmoil in recent weeks.

Since the day before Thanksgiving, the pro-DeSantis super PAC, which is called Never Back Down, has seen the resignation of one chief executive and one board chairman; the firing of a second chief executive, along with two other top officials; and now the late-night quitting of Mr. Roe. All have come after intense infighting and finger-pointing as Mr. DeSantis has slipped in the polls.

“I can’t believe it ended this way,” Mr. Roe wrote in a statement he posted on X on Saturday night. The news of Mr. Roe’s resignation was first reported by The Washington Post.

His decision to quit followed comments from the new chairman of the super PAC’s board, Scott Wagner, a DeSantis loyalist and appointee in Florida. Mr. Wagner had explained to The Washington Post why the previous chief executive and two others — all of whom had worked for Mr. Roe — had been fired.

Mr. Wagner accused them of “mismanagement and conduct issues” as well as “numerous unauthorized leaks.” The Post reported that a lawyer for those employees contacted Mr. Wagner, who then revised his statement to add hedges to those accusations.

“I cannot in good conscience stay affiliated with Never Back Down given the statements in The Washington Post,” Mr. Roe wrote in a statement. He said he still hoped Mr. DeSantis would be the next president and praised the Never Back Down team as “political warriors.”

Mr. Wagner did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

From the start, Never Back Down has been something of a Frankenstein’s monster in its composition, with Mr. Roe and some of his top lieutenants forced to coexist with a decision-making board comprised primarily of longtime friends and loyalists of Mr. DeSantis. The arrangement has raised questions about how closely the campaign and the super PAC have adhered to rules barring coordination.

Former President Donald J. Trump, who was in Las Vegas for a U.F.C. match and who has routinely mocked Mr. Roe privately, celebrated the departure in a post on his social-media site, Truth Social. “Jeff Roe is out — GAME OVER for DeSanctimonious,” he wrote.

The future of internal operations at Never Back Down, which had raised more than $130 million as of July, is unclear. Mr. Roe’s allies hold many of the most important positions in the group, and his company, Axiom, has helped staff early state efforts for the super PAC. Whether they all remain in place is unclear.

Word that Mr. Roe was departing the super PAC began to spread shortly before 8 p.m. on Saturday. But Mr. Roe and several people connected to Never Back Down did not respond to multiple messages seeking confirmation. Mr. Roe ultimately delivered his news to The Washington Post and posted it on X.

Mr. Roe had long ago aggravated Mr. DeSantis with unwanted headlines, among them a New York Times story about a memo narrating debate strategy for the candidate before the first primary debate that was posted on his company’s website, and then taken down after The Times learned of it. The campaign found the memo’s existence embarrassing.

Later, at the end of August, Mr. Roe was secretly recorded at a meeting with donors pitching them for tens of millions of dollars, as well as saying that Mr. DeSantis needed to beat Mr. Trump over the following 60 days.

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