As the donors prepared to watch the first debate, Mr. Roe forecast who might attack Mr. DeSantis or anyone else. To watch “Mike Pence attack somebody, that’d be kind of weird,” he said, adding, “He might get his fly out to kind of help him.”
A spokesman for Mr. Pence did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Mr. Roe said that Mr. Trump, whose campaign did not respond to a request for comment, had a lower ceiling of support than the 42 percent backing him in the Des Moines Register poll. He claimed the real number was 37 percent and that Mr. DeSantis still needed to chase that core Trump bloc for its votes. He said that an additional 37 percent liked Mr. Trump but wanted to move on from him.
“We want to show them we’re a better option — never back down, give it to the elite, like be who we are,” he said in the recording. “But the 37 percent that like Trump but want someone new, we’ve got to give them what they want, and that’s policies. Show them what the governor has done. These folks — we’ve got to get them what they need, which is common sense, which is durability and stability and a leader, vision, optics, family, Casey.”
His mention of Mr. DeSantis’s wife, Casey, recalls a strategy memo that Mr. Roe wrote ahead of the debate in which he implored the candidate to “invoke a personal anecdote story about family, kids, Casey, showing emotion.” The memo was posted on the website of Mr. Roe’s firm to get around laws restricting how super PACs and candidates can coordinate. A person not affiliated with the DeSantis operation alerted The New York Times to its existence. Mr. DeSantis was furious about the memo, according to people with knowledge of his reaction.
In the presentation to donors last Wednesday, Mr. Roe described Mr. Trump as a surefire loser who cannot win the four states he said the race would come down to.
“It’s Arizona, and it’s Georgia and it’s Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And we have Senate races there that cannot overcome him on the ballot,” Mr. Roe said, though he later clarified that there was no Senate race in Georgia, according to a person familiar with the comments. “We’re going to lose them. This is not in dispute. We have to beat him and we’ve got to beat him in the next 60 days and we’ve got to beat everybody else nipping at our heels. Now. And we’ve got to separate further — now.”
Jonathan Swan and Maggie Haberman