Hotel magnate Robert Bigelow, the largest individual donor to a super PAC supporting the presidential bid of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), is considering switching allegiances to former president Donald Trump.
“Who would you want as a commander? I’d want somebody that would be a hell of an ass-kicker if he needed to be,” Bigelow said in an interview with the Financial Times published Wednesday. “On the face of it, you lean toward Trump.”
Bigelow, who this year donated more than $20 million to Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting DeSantis’s presidential bid, first complained months ago about the inability of DeSantis to break out of the crowded Republican field, which continues to be dominated by Trump.
In the Financial Times interview, he had some choice words for a candidate he once said he would “go without food” to support, and predicted Trump would prevail as the GOP nominee if he stays out of jail.
“I think Trump is too strong,” Bigelow said. “I think Trump has the momentum, the inertia, to beat [DeSantis].”
Bigelow said he considers Trump a “bull” and characterized DeSantis as “dinner.”
Representatives for Bigelow and the DeSantis campaign did not immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday.
A DeSantis campaign spokesperson referred the Financial Times to DeSantis’s remarks to NBC in August, when he said, “If I had a nickel for every naysayer I’ve had in my life, I’d be a very, very wealthy man.”
Bigelow’s support for the super PAC has been crucial to DeSantis’s bid for the White House. In a departure from past presidential races, the super PAC has taken on much of the DeSantis field operations, handling voter outreach tasks typically handled by the campaign directly.
After DeSantis’s reelection to the governor’s mansion last year, his presidential campaign has been dogged by errors, lackluster support in public polling and a crowded field that is dividing the anti-Trump Republican vote.
The criticisms from Bigelow came ahead of the third GOP presidential debate in Miami on Wednesday night. Trump, who leads DeSantis and the other candidates by wide margins in public polling, skipped the first two debates and is not scheduled to attend.
Bigelow signaled his dissatisfaction with DeSantis after the governor signed a six-week abortion ban in Florida in April, one of the strictest abortion laws in the country. In response to that public criticism, Bigelow said he received a telephone call from the governor’s wife, Casey, but not the governor.
“Not having him bothering to call me for an explanation taught me that he’s more of a user of people, actually, and that I didn’t matter enough for him to pick up the phone,” Bigelow told the Financial Times.
Maeve Reston and Hannah Knowles contributed to this report.