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Ron DeSantis has raised more money than any other candidate for governor ever, report says

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may soon raise more money for his re-election campaign than he and his former Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum raised combined in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

DeSantis has raised more than $100 million for his 2022 campaign, a monstrous sum achieved entirely through donations. He raised $6.1 million in March alone, according to CNN, and had previously reported raising a total of $96 million for this election cycle through February.

In comparison, the leading Democratic candidate to challenge DeSantis this year, Rep. Charlie Crist, has raised only $7.1 million and has $4.7 million cash on hand. Another Democratic candidate, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, raised just $6 million so far and has spent more than half of that in the Democratic primary campaign.

The March fundraising numbers will be officially released Monday, which is the Florida deadline to report candidate fundraising.

To put the $100 million figure in perspective, DeSantis and Gillum raised a combined $113 million in their match-up four years ago. If DeSantis' 2022 fundraising keeps pace with what he's already raised, he will blow past that number before November's election.

CNN reports that only two other gubernatorial candidates have managed to raise more than $100 million for their campaigns: 2010 California GOP nominee for governor Meg Whitman, a former business executive, and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, whose family owns Hyatt Hotels. Both of these candidates were mostly self-funded, whereas DeSantis, whose net worth is only $348,000 according to his financial disclosures, has managed to win the allegiance of grassroots supporters and big-time GOP donors. He may be the first candidate for governor anywhere to do so.

It's a monumental achievement for DeSantis, a former congressman who was in the middle of the pack of GOP candidates for governor before President Donald Trump endorsed him in 2018.

What the numbers demonstrate is that since becoming governor, DeSantis' record has earned national support from Republicans, many of whom believe he will be a formidable presidential candidate in the future.

His fundraising strength "catapults him into the top tier of potential GOP candidates," veteran GOP strategist Scott Reed told CNN.

"He's been asking for big licks -- $5 million and $10 million per fundraiser -- and he's getting them and that's a warning sign," Reed said. "DeSantis is the talk of every Republican cocktail party and every organizational meeting. His support spans the money class and the movement conservatives. And that's a strong combination early in the game."

After analyzing the governor's fundraising records, CNN reports that cash is flowing to his campaign from a variety of places. DeSantis is picking up small-dollar donations from grassroots supporters as well as wealthy and influential GOP donors in all 50 states. His political action committee has also reportedly received six-figure sums from members of former President Donald Trump's donor network, including Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, WeatherTech CEO David MacNeil, and shipping magnate Richard Uihlein and his wife, Elizabeth.

Rob Stutzman, a California-based GOP consultant, told CNN that the governor's fundraising and his popularity with Trump's donors "certainly confirms conventional wisdom that he is the non-Trump front-runner for the nomination" in 2024.

"Demonstrating that kind of fundraising network is what other candidates will notice as they assess whether to enter the field to compete against him," Stutzman added. "It may be an issue that continues to engender Donald Trump's jealousy, too."

While GOP consultants and political pundits speculate over whether DeSantis could mount a 2024 campaign for president, Trump is showing every intention of running again and has said publicly that he doesn't expect to be challenged for the GOP nomination.

In an interview with the Washington Post last week, Trump said that he "made" DeSantis by endorsing him in 2018 — a claim he's stated before — and said he doesn't believe the Florida governor or any other notable Republican will run against him if he runs for president again.

"If I ran, I can't imagine they'd want to run," Trump said. "Some out of loyalty would have had a hard time running."

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