Donor Who Backed DeSantis Re-election Is ‘Still on the Sidelines’ in 2024

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Kenneth Griffin, a billionaire hedge-fund executive and major Republican donor who has made it clear that he wants the party to move on from former President Donald J. Trump, still has yet to settle on an alternative in the primary — even as time dwindles for Mr. Trump’s opponents to cut into his enormous lead before voting begins in January.

Mr. Griffin’s continued absence from the primary fight, which he confirmed in an interview with CNBC that was broadcast on Monday night, points to a deep dissatisfaction among some anti-Trump Republican megadonors with their choices in the race.

It is also a particular snub to Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. When Mr. DeSantis was up for re-election as governor last year, Mr. Griffin supported him to the tune of $5 million, but he has expressed dissatisfaction with his presidential campaign.

“I don’t know his strategy,” he told CNBC, in a major departure from his assertion last year that the country would be “well served” if Mr. DeSantis were president. “It’s not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to.”

Zia Ahmed, a spokesman for Mr. Griffin’s company, Citadel, confirmed those remarks but emphasized to The New York Times that Mr. Griffin “never said who he’s supporting or not supporting in 2024.”

“I’m still on the sidelines,” Mr. Griffin said in the CNBC interview. He added: “Look, if I had my dream, we’d have a great Republican candidate in the primary who was younger, of a different generation, with a different tone for America.”

That description might once have seemed to refer to Mr. DeSantis, who is 45 and has tried to present himself as someone who can restyle the Republican message and win back the swing voters turned off by Mr. Trump.

But Mr. DeSantis has leaned hard into the cultural grievances that animate the Republican base, denouncing transgender rights and the teaching of race in schools, among other things, while echoing or trying to one-up much of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric on issues like immigration.

Polls show him badly trailing Mr. Trump, at times by dozens of percentage points.

People close to Mr. Griffin have described him as particularly upset by Mr. DeSantis’s characterization of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute,” and by the six-week abortion ban he signed in Florida.

Mr. Griffin spent more than $100 million in the 2022 midterm cycle, and his largess could make a big difference for a Trump opponent — if, or when, he settles on one.

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