The DeSantis campaign says Biden’s age and the recession outweigh abortion.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the annual Feenstra Family Picnic at the Dean Family Classic Car Museum in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Saturday, May 13, 2023.
Photo by Rebecca S. Gratz for The Washington Post via Getty Images

  • Leaked audio from reveals donors are concerned about DeSantis’ abortion ban.
  • The DeSantis campaign shared talking points with fundraisers on how to discuss the issue.
  • They said Biden’s age mattered less to voters and predicted a setback.

DeSantis’ 2024 campaign is banking that voters who decide the general election will care more about the economic turmoil and the age of President Joe Biden than the issue of abortion rights during the general election, according to data obtained by

The admission will shed light on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign strategy as he begins his early state election tour next week. DeSantis will be 45 when elected, while Biden will be just shy of 82.

In the year If you’re a voter in 2024, we’re in a historic recession and you’re voting against a young candidate — Ron DeSantis — who’s an octogenarian, and you’re voting between the two major issues on abortion. “Our data suggests that person has a very high correlation with typical Democrat voting behavior,” said Ryan Tyson, a researcher for the DeSantis campaign.

He made the comments during a speech in which DeSantis campaign aides share talking points and polls with bundles — a term used in the political world to refer to people who ask their contacts for large donations. The packages were assembled for a two-day marathon call at the Four Seasons in Miami.

While calling for campaign contributions, two groups raised concerns about how to talk about abortion rights. One said he was calling donors whose “wives and wives were angry,” while another said he was calling donors who liked DeSantis “when he was in the middle” but feared he would be too right-wing. That donor says he’s seen criticism from others in the room who get similar reactions.

“Regardless of your position, Democrats will campaign on abortion,” Tyson said. He argued that being anti-abortion is only a “kill shot if you’re a piss-poor candidate.” As evidence, he pointed to Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia, who signed six-week abortion into law and still narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger, Stacey Abrams.

“The 2022 general election proved that if you’re a good candidate, you can survive that,” Tyson said, though he didn’t mention that Kemp signed the bill before the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

Still, there are some signs that DeSantis’ anti-abortion record is seen as a vulnerability. DeSantis signed the comprehensive abortion bill without a public ceremony at midnight last month, prompting former President Donald Trump to say whether he would sign the bill into law. The law would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and would take effect if the state Supreme Court upheld the 15-week abortion ban DeSantis signed last year.

On Monday night, DeSantis defended the six-week rule as “the right thing to do” and plans to “keep the unborn baby’s detectable heartbeat,” the period during which the fetus has a heartbeat.

But when Fox News’ Trey Gowdy asked him about his anti-abortion position as president, DeSantis suggested it should be decided by state lawmakers. Tyson highlighted his response at a donor meeting, even as anti-abortion advocates criticized Trump for telling his advisers that individual abortion rights should be decided by states, according to the Washington Post.

“While there are ways for the federal government to protect life, the best way to get abortions is at the state level,” Tyson said in describing the governor’s position. “If the federal government starts getting involved in abortion, it really opens the door for Democrats to roll back pro-life reforms in many states across the country.”

Tyson said voters who like “moderate” politicians are 2024 candidates like former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson. Those voters were looking for someone who was “caring” and “passionate,” he said in a singsong voice.

“They just don’t have enough math,” Tyson concluded, adding that most GOP primary voters are more conservative. “To be general, I was able to win first place,” he added when prompted by a donor. But at the end of the conversation, he said, “I totally understand how difficult that is when you’re talking to a donor.”

Whether the strict ban will be a general election or presidential primary killer is still an open question, though it could prove to hurt congressional Republicans in the 2022 midterms.

Adding to the talking points, the insider in the room, whose voice he couldn’t identify, falsely said, “Abortion is done with a Plan B,” urging donors to point out that most people have access to birth control. Plan B is a type of birth control known as “emergency contraception” and does not result in pregnancy.

“If you’re talking to a voter, I don’t think you jump on it,” he said. “You have to point out that this is a big step for the Republican Party to move to the center on abortion.” It was unclear how DeSantis’ group views the six-week ban as a middle ground, as polls show that most Americans support abortion for weeks past six, but up to a point.

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