Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fired his campaign manager on Tuesday as he struggles to close the gap in the US Republican presidential primary on frontrunner Donald Trump.
James Uthmeier, the candidate’s longtime chief of staff in his day job in Tallahassee, replaces Generra Peck — the latest of a number of unofficial campaign reboots with the candidate languishing almost 40 points behind Trump in polling averages.
The shake-up comes in the wake of DeSantis firing more than a third of his staffers, with aides acknowledging overspending amid a series of negative headlines over the 44-year-old governor’s hardline right wing policies and awkwardness with voters.
Uthmeier joins the team alongside a second appointment, longtime Iowa Republican operative David Polyansky, as DeSantis and his rivals hope for a breakout moment in the first debate on August 23, which Trump has suggested he may skip. Peck will stay on as a strategist.
“We are excited about these additions as we continue to spread the governor’s message across the country. It’s time to reverse our nation’s decline and revive America‘s future,” said DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo.
DeSantis used his first network television interview of the campaign on Monday to go further than he has before in criticizing the frontrunner, explicitly rejecting Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the last election.
The majority of Republican primary voters believe wrongly that Trump won the last election, and bolstering the former president’s false claims of fraud had become a litmus test for those hoping to rise in the party ranks.
The governor said the last election had not been perfect, but he dismissed the former president’s allegations of foul play by President Joe Biden‘s Democrats.
The twice-impeached Trump has been indicted over his efforts to overturn the election that culminated in the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol.
The case is the most serious of four criminal probes that have yielded dozens of felony charges, including allegations that the 77-year-old billionaire endangered national security by storing classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago beach resort in Florida.