Billionaire Thomas Peterffy Deals Huge Blow to Ron DeSantis

The chairman of Interactive Brokers says he will pause his financial support for the governor of Florida, who is seen as Donald Trump’s most serious rival in the 2024 Republican primary.

On November 15, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidential election of 2024.

In the wake of this announcement, the former Republican president has seen a large number of major donors to the Republican party abandon him, including much of the Republican business establishment.

They believed that the time for the new generation had come.

“America does better when its leaders are rooted in today and tomorrow, not today and yesterday,” Stephen Schwarzman, Chief Executive Officer of private equity titan Blackstone  (BX) – Get Free Report, said one day after Trump announced his candidacy.

“It is time for the Republican party to turn to a new generation of leaders, and I intend to support one of them in the presidential primaries,” Schwarzman, who donated $3.7 million during Trump’s first term to committees that supported the controversial president, added.

‘Three-Time Loser’

Billionaire Ken Griffin, another major Republican donor and the Chief Executive Officer of renowned alternative investment firm Citadel, was also one of Trump’s staunchest critics, calling on the real estate magnate to retire from politics.

“I’d like to think that the Republican party is ready to move on from somebody who has been for this party a three-time loser,” Griffin said, referring to the Republican Party’s poor performance in the 2018 mid-term elections, Trump’s own defeat in the 2020 presidential election, and the GOP’s worse-than-expected performance in the 2022 mid-terms.  

This rejection of the former president, on the other hand, benefited a younger candidate. This is Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, 44. He is seen as a rising star and his success in Florida made him the darling of the Republican business establishment. Griffin donated $5 million to DeSantis’ re-election campaign.

DeSantis has not announced a presidential bid yet.

But a little more than five months after announcing his candidacy, Trump appears to have solidified his grip on the Republican electorate base, with supporters of DeSantis, who still has not officially announced that he is going to run, increasingly worried.

The former president’s lead has grown sharply in the polls since his indictment last month by a Manhattan grand jury on 34 felony counts, stemming from a $130,000 hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election. 

Trump denies the claims.

Polls, since then, show Trump with a big lead over DeSantis, who is seen as his main opponent in the Republican primary. A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after the indictment shows Trump with 58% of Republican votes to DeSantis’ 21%. This is a 10% gain compared to a week earlier, i.e. before the indictment.

‘I Have Put Myself on Hold’

Other polls, such as Yahoo News/YouGov, show almost similar gaps. It is in this context that billionaire Thomas Peterffy has just announced that he and his friends were going to pause their financial support for DeSantis. The reason given is that they condemn his “extreme positions on social issues.”

“I have put myself on hold,” the chairman of Interactive Brokers told the Financial Times, “because of his stance on abortion and book banning…myself, and a bunch of friends, are holding our powder dry.”

The billionaire continued: “We are waiting to see who among the primary candidates is most likely to be able to win the general, and then put all of our firepower behind them.”

Peterffy, who backed Trump in the 2020 presidential election, has also previously indicated that he would not help the former president financially in 2024.

The latest announcement from the billionaire is a big blow for DeSantis, currently engaged in a showdown with Disney, one of the big job providers in Florida. 

DeSantis is trying a balancing act between not alienating Trump fans while appealing to moderate voters. But this is proving very tricky: he has embarked on a culture war, in recent months, that could come to haunt him during the general election.

Last year, DeSantis signed a state law — known as “Don’t Say Gay” law — banning kindergarten to third-grade public school classrooms from teaching about sexual orientation and gender. He proposed extending this ban to all age levels. 

In addition, he also just enacted a new law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy in Florida.

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