Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis super PAC, is bringing on Phil Cox as a senior advisor amid a slew of departures, firings, and internal drama.
Scott Wagner, the group’s latest chairman, announced the hiring in an email to supporters on Wednesday. Wagner wrote that Cox will help “advise the Board and oversee our budget, field, and turnout operation” as the primary heats up.
“We are confident that his expertise will significantly contribute to our goal of electing Ron DeSantis to the White House,” Wagner added.
Cox, a veteran Republican operative, previously worked in a volunteer position for Never Back Down. He stepped away from that position back in May. He also helped with DeSantis’ 2022 reelection campaign.
This is crunch time for Never Back Down, which has to prove its continued relevance and ability to operate with just weeks to go before the make-or-break Iowa caucus. With the ground game largely in their hands, rather than the DeSantis campaign itself, Cox will be under enormous pressure to deliver results — and fast.
Cox’s hiring has also raised questions from DeSantis backers about Jeff Roe’s standing within the organization: One person who recently spoke with Cox told Semafor that he wouldn’t have joined the PAC if he wasn’t going to have meaningful control over its funds. The person also said at least some of the recent internal turmoil at the group has been over attempts to wrest control of the money from Roe.
Over the weekend, a number of staffers were fired from Never Back Down: Kristen Davison, who served as interim CEO for just nine days, Erin Perrine, and Matt Palmisano. Another CEO, Chris Jankowski, and board chairman Adam Laxalt, left the group in November.
DeSantis’ inner circle has grown exceedingly frustrated with Never Back Down, one source told Semafor – suggesting the shakeup at the PAC is part of an effort to reset and ease the candidates’ concerns. Meanwhile, the DeSantis campaign has welcomed a second super PAC, Fight Right, into their orbit.
- The turmoil at Never Back Down reflects broader issues with candidate’s increasing reliance on super PACs, David Weigel wrote in Americana. While they offer a convenient way to pay for expensive ads and staff with a few big donors, the legal barriers against coordinating with a campaign often create major problems for candidates.