By Chris Katje
Several billionaires and big-name Republican supporters have been planning to fund campaigns against former President Donald Trump in the 2024 election.
One of the biggest names is now backing away from support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and could be back to the drawing board.
Formerly seen as a leading frontrunner to compete against Trump in the 2024 Republican primaries, DeSantis has seen his support fall. The latest Morning Consult poll has DeSantis facing a 39-point deficit to Trump and hitting 17% support, a low since the poll began tracking in December.
With DeSantis falling in polls and Trump remaining well ahead, conservative media leader Rupert Murdoch is distancing himself from the Florida governor.
A new report from Rolling Stone said the Murdoch family is becoming concerned DeSantis might not have a chance to beat Trump for the GOP nomination.
The Murdochs have been in favor of DeSantis for years, believing he could beat both Trump and Biden in the 2024 primary and 2024 general election.
Sources told Rolling Stone that Murdoch soured on DeSantis and feared a “comeback” isn’t possible at this point.
“(Rupert’s) understandable worry is that we may end up being stuck with Trump anyway,” a source told Rolling Stone. “And DeSantis is underperforming. Anybody can see that.”
One source told the outlet DeSantis’s political strategy has been sloppy, citing an anti-LGBTQ+ video as an example.
“They are transactional and can smell a loser a mile away,” said the source telling Rolling Stone.
Sources also told the outlet Murdoch complained about DeSantis looking awkward in public appearances and hasn’t connected with voters as well as originally predicted.
While the Murdochs are unhappy with DeSantis and the campaign, sources said they’re not ready to completely give up. One big question posed is where the Murdochs would go from here if they move on from DeSantis, with a decision to go back to Trump or back another candidate as the option.
Murdoch is the founder of Fox News, a leading news site that has been a major player in election coverage.
The billionaire has an estimated net worth of $8.5 billion according to Bloomberg.
Murdoch serves as the Executive Chairman of News Corp (NASDAQ: NWSA) and the chairman of Fox Corporation (NASDAQ: FOX)(NASDAQ: FOXA).
Trump has been critical of Fox News and their coverage of DeSantis, saying it has shown favoritism to the Florida governor. The callout comes after Trump and Fox, which were previously on friendly terms, have had a falling out.
The report of the fall-out with Murdoch could be bad news for Trump given the strong influence that outlets owned by both Fox and News Corp. can have influence over voters and are widely followed by conservative voters.
During the Dominion Voting Systems trial faced by Fox, it also came out that Murdoch didn’t believe the 2020 election was rigged or stolen, which prompted a fiery response from Trump.
“Rupert Murdoch should apologize to his viewers and readers for his ridiculous defense of the 2020 Presidential Election. How many forms of cheating and rigging does he have to see?” said Trump on a post on Truth Social.
Trump said Murdoch should get rid of any Fox News anchors who argued against Trump’s claims about the election.
“It’s time to get rid of Fake News and call it like it is!”
While a decision by the deep-pocketed Murdoch could now be in question, it came as other leading Republican donors have remained on the sidelines.
Benzinga previously reported on a PAC founded by the Koch brothers raising $70 million to back a Republican presidential candidate other than Trump. Many believed DeSantis would be the candidate of choice, but that has not been the case to date.
Hedge fund billionaire and New York Mets owner Steve Cohen also has not pledged his financial support to a candidate, despite backing Chris Christie during the 2016 election and being an ally of the former New Jersey governor.
Produced in association with Benzinga