In the heat of the pre-Iowa caucus frenzy, Scott Wagner, the newly appointed CEO of ‘Never Back Down,’ a super PAC supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, was found engaging in an activity that has raised eyebrows among campaign staff and political commentators alike.
Instead of last-minute strategizing, Wagner devoted his office hours to assembling a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, the NBC News reported.
With the Iowa caucuses less than a week away, internal turmoil shook the DeSantis campaign as chief strategist Jeff Roe announced his departure.
Roe, the top adviser to Never Back Down, took to social media platform X with a short but profound message, “Good luck the next 28 days and a wake up. I’m so sorry I can’t be there with you,” seemingly indicating a sudden and unplanned exit.
I can’t believe it ended this way. I’m so proud to have worked alongside these men and women at NBD 24/7 the past nine months to save the country. Good luck the next 28 days and a wake up. I’m so sorry I can’t be there with you. pic.twitter.com/Rh4oQQ1tAE
— Jeff Roe (@jeffroe) December 17, 2023
As the DeSantis team rallied to regain footing without their strategic leader, a photo taken on January 9 and shared with NBC News depicted a stark contrast within the PAC’s headquarters.
Staff members appeared diligently focused on their screens while Scott Wagner, the head of the super PAC, was busy puzzling together a landscape scene, piece by piece.
It can be recalled Scott Wagner was named as interim CEO last December after the Never Back Down super PAC fired interim chief executive officer Kristin Davison after she was on the job for only nine days.
A staffer, speaking anonymously to NBC News, said, “Staffers are putting their dedication and devotion to electing Gov. DeSantis, and they come in and the CEO, the chairman of the organization, is sitting there working on a puzzle for hours.”
Another staffer commented on the amount of time Wagner dedicated to the puzzle.
The scene struck a chord of discord and mismanagement within a campaign that should be running at full capacity.
In his defense, Wagner told NBC News that the puzzle was already in the office when they arrived and had become a team-building exercise. He praised the dedication and hard work of his team in Iowa, underlining their relentless efforts in adverse weather conditions.
“It became a sense of pride for the entire team and everyone chipped in a few minutes a piece to get it done,” he said.
“I could not be more proud of every person in our Iowa office. I came out to work with our Iowa team and our incredible COO Jordan Wiggins in person for the final two week push in Iowa and I came away with a group of people I would go to war with any time, anywhere. We worked non-stop together on operations in terrible weather conditions.”
“The operation worked nearly 24/7 throughout for the Gov and was absolutely seamless. I am so proud of what we achieved in Iowa and will achieve beyond.”
DeSantis finished second in the Iowa caucuses, trailing significantly behind former President Donald Trump.
The gap of 30 percentage points and Trump’s substantial lead have led to a wave of frustration and accusations from DeSantis’s camp.
Andrew Romeo, Ron DeSantis’s communications director, made a striking statement, accusing the media of election interference.
“Absolutely outrageous that the media would participate in election interference by calling the race before tens of thousands of Iowans even had a chance to vote. The media is in the tank for Trump and this is the most egregious example yet,” Romeo wrote.
Ron’s campaign manager, James Uthmeier, expressed frustration in an interview that the race was declared while voting was still underway.