Just hours before the Florida governor announced he was dropping out of the 2024 presidential race, NBC News published a scathing story detailing the pitfalls of the since-ended campaign. The report revealed Scott Wagner, CEO of the super PAC Never Back Down, spent a significant amount of time constructing a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle at the organization’s headquarters in West Des Moines, Iowa.
“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,” a Never Back Down staffer told NBC News.
Mr Wagner took over as head of the PAC last month. He replaced interim CEO Kristin Davison, who was let go after just nine days on the job, NBC News previously reported.
In a comment to NBC News, Mr Wagner said the "office puzzle" was "there when we arrived" and added that it "became a sense of pride for the entire team and everyone chipped in a few minutes a piece to get it done”.
He told the outlet: "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.
— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) January 21, 2024
"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."
Never Back Down also made headlines last month when the organization lost its top adviser, Jeff Roe. His decision to leave came just hours after The Washington Post published a story about the internal disputes and suspicions between the PAC, the campaign and DeSantis’ allies.
“I cannot in good conscience stay affiliated with Never Back Down given the statements in the Washington Post today,” Mr Roe said in a statement on X. “They are not true and an unwanted distraction at a critical time for Governor DeSantis.”
News of the jigsaw puzzle also came alongside a Sunday morning poll from CNN projecting Mr DeSantis in third place for the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. That survey placed him at just 5 per cent, well below the 10 per cent threshold required to qualify for delegates in the state.
The Independent has contacted Never Back Down for comment.