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Never Back Down, pro-DeSantis super PAC, cancels $2.5 million in 2024 TV advertising as new group takes over

Haley, DeSantis battle for 2nd in Iowa
Trump still leads, Haley-DeSantis feud heating up ahead of Iowa caucuses 05:31

Never Back Down, the main outside group that's been supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis throughout his presidential campaign, has canceled all of its advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2024.

The super PAC said it will focus on field operations to support DeSantis on the ground in the early states and will cede advertising to a different super PAC backing DeSantis, "Fight Right, Inc.," which has spent close to $7.7 million on advertising in Iowa, according to AdImpact, a political advertising tracking firm.

"We are thrilled to have Fight Right and others covering the air for Governor DeSantis while we work the ground game in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond," wrote Never Back Down Chairman Scott Wagner. "Never Back Down is laser focused on its core mission — running the most advanced grassroots and political caucus operation in this race and helping deliver the GOP nomination for Governor DeSantis."

Never Back Down had $2.5 million scheduled to run in the first two presidential nominating states in 2024, according to AdImpact. Since launching, it has spent over $40 million in advertising in support of DeSantis.

Fight Right spokesperson Taryn Fenske said its group will place $2.5 million in ad reservations in Iowa, matching the reservations canceled by Never Back Down. 

"Good Fight," another super PAC supporting DeSantis that filed its registration on Wednesday, will begin airing its own advertising in Iowa starting Dec. 27, according to Medium Buying. Its ties to Fight Right remain unclear. 

Never Back Down has seen major upheaval in recent months as DeSantis continues to trail former President Donald Trump in Iowa polling — and is behind both Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in New Hampshire polling. Multiple senior officials with Never Back Down resigned or were fired after disputes on the group's direction on advertising and personnel moves. 

Fight Right was launched by DeSantis allies in Florida after an argument in November between Wagner and former chief strategist to Never Back Down Jeff Roe over the effectiveness of Never Back Down's attack ads against Haley, according to a person familiar with its creation.

Fight Right has received at least $1 million in funding from Never Back Down, according to a person familiar with the group, and DeSantis has attended fundraisers to support the outside group. 

All of Fight Right's advertising in Iowa so far has been used to attack Haley.  The group has put six ads on the air so far, with a seventh attacking Haley for bringing in Chinese businesses during her tenure as South Carolina's governor. 

The topic of China has been a heated one between DeSantis and Haley throughout the race. During the last GOP primary debate, the two traded attacks over their respective state's ties to Chinese companies. 

Some of Fight Right's advertising tying Haley to 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been found misleading in fact checks by PolitiFact and the Washington Post.

On Monday, a watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that alleged illegal coordination between DeSantis' campaign, which is subject to limits on individual fundraising, and Never Back Down, a super PAC that does not have any limits. 

DeSantis' campaign called it a "baseless complaint" and said that the FEC "has made clear they won't take action based upon unverified rumors and innuendo, and that's the false information this politically motivated complaint is based on."

In Iowa on Tuesday, DeSantis called the complaint "a farce" and said he doesn't have any control over the group, which he often praises for its grassroots organizing. 

"Trust me, I have no — there's a lot of things that happen that I wish I had control over," he told reporters. 

Iowa holds its caucuses on Jan. 15, and New Hampshire's primary on January 23.

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