Bryan Griffin, press secretary for the DeSantis campaign, said that Mr. DeSantis had shown his commitment to protecting both Israel and American Jews through his actions, calling him “a leader who acts and delivers.” He did not comment on the conversations with the donors.
This week, however, one of Mr. DeSantis’s closest Jewish allies, State Representative Randy Fine, broke with the Florida governor and switched his endorsement to Mr. Trump. Mr. Fine wrote in an opinion column that Mr. DeSantis’s failure to confront antisemitism more publicly had “broken my heart.” In an interview with The New York Times, he said he had been dismayed by Mr. DeSantis’s “lack of leadership” after the neo-Nazi marches.
“Look, if you can’t say Nazis are bad, which should be the easiest thing in the world to say, then what are you doing?” said Mr. Fine, who is the only Jewish Republican in the State Legislature and was publicly confronted by a neo-Nazi protester this month. “It’s important, because Jews are scared.”
Mr. Fine said the governor’s silence was both “stubborn” and “wrong.”
In response to a reporter’s question this week, Mr. DeSantis defended himself, calling the neo-Nazi demonstrators “knuckleheads” and asking why he would “elevate that nonsense” by drawing attention to them.
“I think some of them are fake,” the governor said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “I think they’re just trying to get media clicks.”
He also accused Mr. Fine, who is running for the State Senate, of playing “pure politics” with his endorsement.
In contrast to Mr. DeSantis, Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, both Republicans, have condemned neo-Nazi activities in Florida.
After one incident last year, Mr. Rubio wrote on social media that antisemitism was a “dangerous poison” that must be condemned “everywhere & every time, even when it’s just a small group of attention craving losers” — a seeming rebuke of Mr. DeSantis.
Many leaders of prominent Jewish groups agreed with Mr. Rubio’s assessment. Sarah Emmons, the Florida regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Times this week that “public officials should call out antisemitism and hate in all forms across the political spectrum, no matter the source.”
Both the governor’s office and his presidential campaign said he had responded to the incidents with deeds rather than words, pointing to legislation he has signed that bolstered religious anti-discrimination protections in schools, increased penalties for antisemitic harassment and financed security at Jewish day schools. The governor has also directed state law enforcement agencies to pursue neo-Nazis for illegal demonstrations.
“Action to protect the Jewish community and hold those who break the law accountable is more important to the Governor than giving these demonstrators the wall-to-wall coverage they (and the media) crave,” Jeremy Redfern, the press secretary in the governor’s office, said in a statement.
In one high-profile antisemitic incident that took place in February, Rabbi Yosef Konikov was surrounded by neo-Nazi protesters as he attempted to drive from the Chabad he leads in Orlando. The men shouted slurs and threats. Mr. Konikov described the encounter — which was caught on video and was not his first run-in with the group, he said — as “disturbing.”
But he said he believed the governor had been right not to speak publicly about what happened.
“I don’t want these guys to get more coverage than they are already getting,” explained Mr. Konikov, who said he has attended Hanukkah celebrations at the governor’s mansion. He also said that Mr. DeSantis’s office had called him privately to offer support.
Mr. DeSantis’s Jewish supporters believe the governor has made it abundantly clear where he stands through his legislative agenda and his full-throated backing of Israel.