Ron DeSantis Debate Prep Memo Suggests Defending Trump – Rolling Stone

desantis debate memo

The first Republican presidential debate is less than a week away, and with frontrunner Donald Trump’s participation still up in the air, candidates are trying to nail down their strategies to make the most of the opportunity. 

Ron DeSantis’ preparation may include strategies on how to come off as personable, how to manage face-to-face confrontations with his opponents, and even how to defend Donald Trump — whom he must somehow defeat, of course, to actually win the nomination. The Florida governor’s potential strategy comes by way of a memo from a group associated with the PAC tied to DeSantis, which was obtained by The New York Times. 

The memo — produced by Axiom Strategies, a political consulting firm owned by Jeff Roe, chief strategist of the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC — was posted to Axiom’s website and then removed after the Times reached out for comment. 

The document outlines a strategy framed around Roger Ailes’ “Orchestra Pit media theory,” which proposes that headlines won’t be achieved by getting bogged down in policy discussions, but by creating viral moments through directed attacks, emotional statements, and clippable quotes. 

“There are four basic must- dos,” the memo reads:

  1. Attack Joe Biden and the media 3-5 times.
  2. State positive vision 2-3 times.
  3. Hammer Vivek Ramaswamy in a response.
  4. Defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack.

In response to criticism that DeSantis lacks charisma and personality, the document advises invoking “a personal anecdote story about family, kids, Casey [DeSantis], showing emotion.” 

Where better to show gumption than in a confrontation with one’s rivals? The campaign strategy outline suggests DeSantis “take a sledge-hammer to Vivek Ramaswamy,” and call him “Fake Vivek Or Vivek the Fake.” Ramaswamy has been gathering momentum as DeSantis’ campaign has faltered.

In a response to the memo, a spokesperson for Ramaswamy told NBC News: “If DeSantis struggles to use a spoon, I can’t imagine he is particularly agile with a sledgehammer.” The quip is a reference to reports that the Florida governor enjoys eating single-chocolate pudding cups with his fingers. 

The memo also addresses how DeSantis should defend Trump should Chris Christie attack him, advising him to say something along the lines of “Trump isn’t here so let’s just leave him alone. He’s too weak to defend himself here. We’re all running against him. I don’t think we

want to join forces with someone on this stage who’s auditioning for a show on MSNBC.” 


For months now, DeSantis, like many other candidates, has struggled to find the nerve to publicly attack Trump, and it’s costing him. DeSantis has slipped dramatically in the polls and in recent weeks the campaign seems to be stuck in a perpetual “reset” that hasn’t seemed to have restored any confidence among donors. 

The debate may be the last best chance the Florida governor has to positively market himself to a national audience before election season begins in full. 

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