(Bloomberg) -- Ron DeSantis’s allies consider entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who is edging closer to the Florida governor for the number two spot in the Republican presidential field, as vulnerable for his ties to China and willingness to join a trans-Pacific trade deal.
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The line of attack was outlined as part of a trove of documents on the GOP contenders DeSantis stands to face at the first Republican presidential primary debate scheduled to be held in Milwaukee on Aug. 23. They were posted on the website for Axiom Strategies, the firm founded by longtime Republican operative Jeff Roe, a strategist for the Never Back Down super PAC supporting DeSantis.
Notably, there weren’t any specific documents listed for Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner and former president, who has publicly toyed with skipping the first debate, citing his wide polling lead over DeSantis and the rest of the field.
The documents say that as CEO of Roivant Sciences in 2018, Ramaswamy partnered with a Chinese state-owned firm to start another company, Sinovant Sciences, and that he keynoted a conference in China.
The documents also target Ramaswamy’s stances on abortion and drug policy and link him to Democratic financier George Soros, a frequent target for Republicans. Ramaswamy received a Soros fellowship for new Americans over a decade ago.
Together, the attack lines on Ramaswamy, and others, including North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, former Vice President Mike Pence, US Senator Tim Scott, ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, underscore the stakes for DeSantis, once considered the strongest challenger to Trump, but whose candidacy has been beset by stumbles.
It also highlights DeSantis’s increased reliance on the super PAC after his campaign replaced its manager and shed staff due to a cash crunch and dismal poll numbers. In recent weeks, Never Back Down has hosted a bus tour to take DeSantis across Iowa. This weekend the PAC is scheduled to host him on a tour through New Hampshire.
Ramaswamy’s campaign is riding a wave of momentum. A Fox News poll conducted between Aug. 11 and Aug. 14 showed Ramaswamy surging. Trump was at 53%, with DeSantis at 16% and Ramaswamy in third at 11%, according to the poll. Ramaswamy, the author of Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam and Strive Asset Management co-founder, was at just 5% in a June Fox News survey.
Read more: DeSantis-Allied PAC Tops Trump in Money Race With $131 Million
The super PAC did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson from Ramaswamy’s campaign called the attack lines “boring” and “canned,” and DeSantis “robotic.”
“Vivek’s job on Aug. 23 is to introduce himself and his vision to the American people,” the spokesperson said. “If DeSantis struggles to use a spoon, I can’t imagine he is particularly agile with a sledgehammer,” the spokesperson added, an apparent reference to an anecdote reported in the Daily Beast that DeSantis once ate pudding with his fingers.
The memo detailed internal polling in Iowa, which holds the first-in-the nation Republican caucus, conducted by WPA Intelligence that paints a rosier picture of DeSantis’s bid, still trailing Trump by a wide margin, but with a more comfortable lead over Ramaswamy.
It also suggests DeSantis would be most competitive if he narrows the field to just him and Trump.
The WPA Intelligence poll shows that DeSantis’s net favorability has decreased from March to August, putting him behind Scott. Trump’s favorability has also decreased and sits just under 20%, the poll showed.
--With assistance from Stephanie Lai.
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