A leaked debate memo drafted by the heads of the pro-Ron DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down details how they think the Florida governor should attack businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, calling for DeSantis to “take a sledgehammer” to his GOP rival.
The New York Times was the first outlet to report on the memo, which was posted along with another trove of debate strategy documents on Axiom Strategies’s website. The firm is owned by Republican strategist Jeff Roe, the chief strategist of Never Back Down. The memo was removed after the publication reached out to Never Back Down for comment, according to the Times.
The memo urged DeSantis to “take a sledgehammer” to Ramaswamy by calling him “Fake Vivek” or “Vivek the Fake.” Additionally, the memo called on the governor to defend former President Trump should former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) attack Trump.
“Defend Trump when Chris Christie attacks him,” the memo reads, according to The Times. The memo also reportedly includes a suggested line for DeSantis to use on Christie: “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.”
The Hill reached out to Never Back Down and the DeSantis campaign for comment.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (R) is also referenced numerous times in the documents, which would suggest the super PAC is zeroed in on the threat of Ramaswamy, Scott and Christie gaining momentum.
“They have to worry about [the] rest of the field catching up preparing for [the] long haul in case something happens to Trump,” one Republican strategist told The Hill. “And the memo for the debate basically makes that point.”
Internal polling that was also posted in the same trove of documents reportedly shows Ramaswamy surging in New Hampshire. Public polling also suggests Ramaswamy has been creeping up in the polls. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, DeSantis comes in second place at 14.8 percent, and Ramaswamy clocks in third at 6.9 percent.
Ramaswamy responded to news of the leaked memo on Thursday in a tweet, referring to DeSantis as “robot Ron.”
“Another boring, establishment attack from Super PAC-creation ‘Robot Ron’ who is literally taking lame, pre-programmed attack lines against me for next week’s debate. ‘Hammer Ramaswamy,'” Ramaswamy wrote.
Meanwhile, the pro-Christie super PAC Tell It Like It Is appeared to troll news of the leaked memo by releasing their memo that read, “Be yourself, and Tell It Like It Is.”
It is not unusual for PACs to telegraph strategy in memos given that they are legally not allowed to coordinate directly with political campaigns. However, it is unusual that the trove of documents was publicly posted to the firm working for the PAC.
The development is yet another negative headline for DeSantis, who has been in the midst of a campaign reset. The campaign has seen two rounds of layoffs and a new campaign manager in recent weeks and polling continues to look less than favorable for the Florida governor. A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed the Florida governor’s support in the GOP primary poll slipping to its lowest level this year.