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New pro-DeSantis group brings on aide from former 2024 rival to lead Iowa effort: report

A former adviser for the now-defunct presidential campaign of Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is reportedly running a new effort in support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Iowa. 

Politico first reported that Blake Harris, who served most recently as senior political adviser to Scott, is expected to run the super PAC Fight Right. 

Scott dropped out of the 2024 presidential contest on Nov. 12. Last week, Fight Right kicked off a $980,000 television ad buy, concentrating on airing ads in Iowa targeting former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley who is polling narrowly behind DeSantis’s No. 2 position in the first caucus state. Former President Trump is still polling first – ahead of DeSantis by a double-digit margin. 

One ad compares Haley to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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Politico also reported about alleged infighting at the DeSantis-aligned super PAC Never Back Down regarding how to best prevent Haley from gaining ground before the Jan. 15 caucuses after the Florida governor already spent most of the summer focusing campaign efforts on Iowa. 

Never Back Down transferred $1 million to Fight Right before its first ad buy, a source told the outlet, and DeSantis met personally in Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday with potential donors for Fight Right. With primary voting set to begin in less than two months, the two political action committees are slated to work alongside each other and share the “same objective,” the source said.

In a Monday memo first reported by ABC News, DeSantis campaign manager James Uthmeier told potential donors that he “welcomes the independent efforts” of Fight Right, which was formed this month, and which he said will focus on providing “welcome air support” for the governor. Never Back Down, which Uthmeier deemed “the largest Iowa turnout machine in history,” will focus on groundwork for DeSantis. 

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Meanwhile, Haley’s presidential campaign on Tuesday received a key endorsement from Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the powerful Koch network, which has been building a network of paid conservative activists and volunteers in key states for several years, according to the Associated Press. 

Back in the spring, the Koch network began running ads across Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — the first three states on the GOP’s presidential primary calendar — focusing on questions about Trump’s electability in next fall’s general election against President Biden. Still, Trump remains the overwhelming front-runner in the race.

Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung dismissed Americans for Prosperity as “the political arm of the China-first, America-last movement.”

In a statement, DeSantis spokesperson Andrew Romeo likened the Koch endorsement to a contribution to the Trump campaign.

“Congratulations to Donald Trump on securing the Koch endorsement. Like clockwork, the pro-open borders, pro-jail break bill establishment is lining up behind a moderate who has no mathematical pathway of defeating the former president,” Romeo wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Every dollar spent on Nikki Haley’s candidacy should be reported as an in-kind to the Trump campaign. No one has a stronger record of beating the establishment than Ron DeSantis, and this time will be no different.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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