Hotel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, the biggest individual donor to a group supporting Ron DeSantis’s presidential bid, has said he will not donate more money unless the Florida governor attracts new major donors and adopts a more moderate approach.

The comments by Bigelow, who gave $20m to the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down Super Pac in March, to Reuters underscore donor concerns about the Florida governor’s struggling campaign.

DeSantis has been unable to make a dent in Donald Trump’s huge lead for the 2024 Republican nomination. Last month, advisors to the governor confirmed his campaign cut more than a third of staff. And in Florida, there are signs of growing wariness at his extremist positions on slavery, education, abortion and immigration.

“He does need to shift to get to moderates. He’ll lose if he doesn’t … extremism isn’t going to get you elected,” Bigelow told Reuters. Bigelow cited DeSantis signing a Florida bill banning abortions after six weeks, a move that came after Bigelow had donated the $20m.

Bigelow said he would not donate more money for now. “Not until I see that he’s able to generate more on his own. I’m already too big a percentage,” Bigelow said. “A lot of his donors are still on the fence.“

Bigelow said he wasn’t waiting for an exact fundraising figure, but that “it’s going to be a lot”.

In a statement to Reuters, a spokesperson for the DeSantis campaign, Bryan Griffin, said they were “grateful” to supporters and donors who gave them “the capacity to compete for the long haul”, without addressing Bigelow directly.

A source familiar with the governor’s strategy told Reuters that “donors don’t set policy for the governor, and they never will”.

Never Back Down did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Even though DeSantis has attracted big donors desperate for a Trump alternative, Bigelow, the founder of Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace, stands out. After him, the second-biggest individual donor to Never Back Down is venture capitalist Douglas Leone, who gave $2m, according to campaign filings – a tenth of what Bigelow contributed.

DeSantis’ campaign finances have come under scrutiny in recent weeks after his campaign said it had let go 38 employees, or over one-third of staff. The campaign had a high cash burn rate and most of the money raised came from donors who had contributed the maximum legal amount, suggesting more financial tensions ahead.

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Still, DeSantis’ campaign and Never Back Down had a combined $109m in the bank at the end of June, well above the combined $53m of Trump’s campaign and his allied Super Pac, known as Maga Inc, according to financial disclosures to the Federal Elections Commission.

As DeSantis’s campaign struggles, however, he has been relying more on Never Back Down, which as a Super Pac can raise and spend unlimited sums supporting him as long as it doesn’t coordinate spending with his campaign.

Bigelow said he remains behind DeSantis. “I think he’s the best guy for the country”.

The abortion restrictions cited by Bigelow have rattled other donors. Metals magnate and Republican donor Andy Sabin, for example, soured on DeSantis and threw his support behind Senator Tim Scott in part due to the abortion issue.

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