DeSantis replaces campaign manager in latest shake-up

The governor’s team pledged to scale back, build an insurgent operation, and do more mainstream media outreach. They’ve done all that. But the results have yet to be reflected in the polls.

One person close to the campaign, who was granted anonymity to freely discuss the issue, said that Peck’s removal, which was first reported by The Messenger, was “no surprise. Should have happened a few weeks ago.”

DeSantis’ campaign spokesperson, Andrew Romeo, also confirmed the staff moves in a statement, saying that “Uthmeier has been one of Governor DeSantis’ top advisors for years and he is needed where it matters most: working hand in hand with Generra Peck and the rest of the team to put the governor in the best possible position to win this primary and defeat Joe Biden.”

Uthmeier has served as DeSantis’ chief of staff since October 2021 and worked as the governor’s general counsel before he became his top aide. He has been involved in some of the governor’s most high profile initiatives, including the controversial program to transport migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last year.

Uthmeier also worked as a senior adviser to former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross but his background is primarily in legal work and not in running political campaigns.

Uthmeier is taking an unpaid leave of absence from the administration to work on the campaign and is not resigning permanently from his job as chief of staff, according to the governor’s office. Alex Kelly, a former top deputy to DeSantis who was recently appointed to be the secretary of the Department of Commerce, will step in as acting chief of staff while Uthmeier works with the campaign, which operates out of an office building in Tallahassee.

This is not the first time that DeSantis — whose inner circle is very tight — has leaned into people who worked for him in the governor’s office to help with his presidential aspirations.

In early July, Stephanie Kopelousos, the governor’s long-time legislative affairs director, left to work for the DeSantis campaign while Taryn Fenske, the governor’s communications director, departed to work for Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting DeSantis.

It was Peck who tried to reassure donors and supporters during a retreat held late last month in Utah. During the event, she acknowledged that the campaign had spent too much money ramping up its operation and that the campaign would turn to a leaner “insurgent” posture.

Since that time, DeSantis has been relying on smaller campaign events — some of which are being done in concert with Never Back Down — while also sitting down for interviews with mainstream media outlets. This week, for example, DeSantis did an interview with NBC News just months after a top spokesperson in office said they were boycotting the network.

Despite polls showing him trailing former President Donald Trump, DeSantis has vowed to plow ahead in the early states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

While brushing aside some of his poll numbers, DeSantis told NBC News this week that “I would much rather be underestimated” when asked about some of the problems with his campaign so far.

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