The most powerful Republican you don’t know
Behind the scenes of the impending battle to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, a Hollywood movie script is writing itself. The “you can’t make this stuff up” future blockbuster features two men and a woman (intertwined), but this is no rom-com.
Then in September 2018, the woman was sent by President Trump on a mission to rescue the floundering Florida gubernatorial campaign of a little-known congressman named Ron DeSantis. And in record time, she pulled off the smallest victory, which he parlayed into becoming “America’s governor.” Now that moniker is used by his adoring GOP fan base as Gov. DeSantis gallivants across battleground states campaigning for others. Meanwhile, he has raised over $100 million for his expected 2024 presidential run (after the governor cruises to an easy reelection in November), or so the story goes.
This woman with the Florida magic touch is Susie Wiles — the most powerful Republican you don’t know. She has served as CEO of Trump’s Save America PAC since March 2021. The PAC is flush with $103 million cash on hand. In effect, Wiles is Trump’s chief of staff as he plays with the 2022 midterm election and gears up for his third White House run.
The “Games of Thrones: Everglades” version is brewing. Think two alpha alligators bred to fight and itching for a political wrestling match where failure is not an option. Wiles is in Trump’s alligator pit for reasons this “movie script” need not embellish. (Keep reading.)
A political insider who asked not to be named told me that Susie Wiles “will want to destroy” DeSantis after he “beheaded her” in September 2019. At the time, a Politico headline read: “Trump’s Florida ‘field general’ got kneecapped.” Moreover, the insider said, “Ron and his wife continue in their efforts to destroy Susie Wiles.”
Interestingly, as Trump and DeSantis continue to generate headlines, Wiles is virtually unknown. She has no Wikipedia page and never speaks to the press — the polar opposite of a Kellyanne Conway-type. Nonetheless, as the CEO of Trump’s main PAC, she wields an inordinate amount of power and influence while intentionally keeping a low media profile. Interestingly, Wiles’s father was Pat Summerall, the legendary sportscaster with a high media profile.
Although Susie Wiles is unknown outside of political circles, that is about to change. Perfectly timed as I began writing this piece was a detailed CNN profile about Wiles headlined: “She helped Trump win Florida twice. Now she could lead his expected 2024 campaign.” CNN concluded with this memorable quote:
“‘Would I predict that she would run it? Yes,’ said a source close to Trump. ‘Would it shock me if she got fired tomorrow? No. That’s just Trump world.’”
A source told me:
“Wiles does not want to be Trump’s 2024 campaign manager, but it might end up being her. She has managed all of Trump’s 2022 endorsements and is close with Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.) — Trump’s candidate for Senate majority leader.”
Note that Sen. Scott is another extension of Wiles’s power. In 2010 she managed Scott’s first long-shot gubernatorial campaign, and he won.
Susie Wiles might not want to captain Trump 2024, but momentum continues.
Last month a Hill piece headlined, “New faces begin to surface as possible Trump 2024 key players.” It read, “One consensus name that those close to Trump believe will play a major role in any 2024 campaign is Susie Wiles, the chair of Trump’s Save America PAC.”
Amusingly, if you click Wiles’s Hill archive, her first and only previous mention was dated July 9, 2020, headlined: “Sources say DeSantis undercutting fundraising for Republican National Convention because of personal dispute: report.” This “personal dispute” was “between himself and his former campaign manager, Susie Wiles.”
But that 2020 bad blood is a melted red popsicle compared to the potential for 2024 bloodshed. A GOP strategist who wished to remain unnamed told me, “Wiles and Trump are loyal to each other because, after DeSantis, Trump brought Susie back from the political dead.” Then he explained why Wiles had amassed so much Trump-world power:
“Wiles power is not as a manager or strategist, but as an operative. She is not Karl Rove or David Axelrod, but Trump thinks he is them.”
The strategist said, “Trump does not want to be managed or handled. Her power with Trump is based on her ability to present him with a full range of options. Because Trump is impulsive, Wiles makes sure Trump has heard the full range of options, upsides, and downsides. She makes sure he has all the information. When he does, Trump makes good decisions. When he doesn’t is when bad decisions are made.”
Finally, he said, “Wiles is like a traffic cop. She talks to the right people, and Trump trusts her. Trump has not announced early because Susie was against it.”
But this week’s “raid” could change everything. Trump being aligned with Wiles against DeSantis is the story to watch with an undercurrent from the September 2019 “kneecapping.” And what was that about?
First, after some embarrassing leaks (that my sources say DeSantis unfairly blamed on Wiles) along with paranoia about his administration and the Florida GOP being stacked with “Susie people” — DeSantis fired her.
Next, according to Politico, the governor convinced President Trump to fire her from his 2020 campaign. Suddenly, Wiles became persona non grata in the Florida Republican Party and politically dead.
Definitely more of a “beheading” than a “kneecapping.”
Thus, as Trump’s and DeSantis’s 2024 plans careen towards mutually assured destruction, a GOP consultant told me, “A lot of famous people are going to try to stop this from happening.” When I asked, “Who?” He answered, “Conservative media people that will try to stop the skirmish — the big ones.”
As this movie script continues to write itself, you’ll be hearing the name Susie Wiles more often.
Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams.