Few Republican groups have had as meteoric a rise as Turning Point USA.

Started in 2012 to energize young conservatives, the group has quickly grown into something of a quasi-partisan apparatus in its own right through organizing, holding rallies with leading conservatives and, perhaps most importantly, liaising closely with the Former President Donald Trump and his supporters. eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

But, like many groups on the right, the past few months have been difficult following the disappointing midterm performance of the Republican Party. Some Republicans now question whether the group and its founder, Charlie Kirk, were overvalued, particularly after the losses of top candidates in Arizona, the state where it bases its operations and which it seeks to use. as a testing ground.

A bigger problem for Kirk and Turning Point, however, is that they may be losing the trust of their most important supporter: Trump.

With the 2024 primary campaign heating up, several people close to Trump told NBC News that he and some around him are frustrated by Kirk’s overtures to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

A close Trump adviser who spoke with the former president last week about the matter He said Trump has «been watching» Kirk’s relationship with DeSantis since Turning Point hosted rallies across the country last summer for high-profile Republican candidates headlining the Florida governor.

More recently, Trump noted that Kirk began siding with DeSantis in his effort to shake up the Republican National Committee, according to the aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly. Kirk expressed his desire to remove the incumbent president, Ronna McDaniel, who was originally selected by Trump for the position.

DeSantis, on the other hand, publicly praised his challenger Harmeet Dhillon, who was heavily pushed by Kirk, in comments that caused a stir at the NCR winter meeting last month. She and she made those comments in an interview with Kirk.

“Trump feels that he has made Charlie and Charlie ungrateful and [Trump’s] I haven’t been happy for a while,» the adviser said. “It’s like, ‘You call him and tell him I’d be nothing without my son.’”

«I see that [Kirk’s] trying to cover all their bases,” the adviser continued. “Trying to triangulate between Trump and DeSantis. And Ron may not care, but Trump notices.»

I love President Trump and support him by 2024. All the media drama is noise.

Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA

Trump Jr., a close Kirk ally, rejected the notion of any discord.

“Few people in politics have been a stronger or more loyal ally to both my father and our entire family than Charlie,” Trump Jr. said in a statement. “I know my father appreciates Charlie’s early support and we all value his friendship. No amount of BS quotes from anonymous sources, who have no idea what they’re talking about, will change any of that.»

Other Kirk allies, as well as a Trump spokesman, also disputed suggestions that the relationship has frayed.

«Charlie endorsed President Trump’s candidacy to be the next president of the United States, and he and Turning Point have always been great allies of the president,» Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, said in a statement.

Kirk also said that everything was fine.

“I love President Trump and support him by 2024,” he said in a statement. «All media drama is noise.»

But a second person who remains in Trump’s political orbit and requested anonymity to speak openly on the matter was less flattering: «The Trump world is very aware of what is coming out of Turning Point.»

“Charlie and Turning Point were very close to Trump from the beginning,” this person said. “But the distance has grown since the beginning of 2022. And then you get to the end of 2022, there is a coordinated effort from TPUSA to build that relationship with Ron. Because? Charlie wants to be next to the shiny new thing on the block.»

“Like so many others,” the person added, “there would be no Charlie Kirk without Donald Trump.”

A schism between Trump and one of his main backers could have major implications for the 2024 Republican primary, which has begun to heat up with the upcoming entry of Nikki Haley, former US ambassador to the United Nations, and Trump’s escalation of his broadsides against DeSantis.

Charlie Kirk poses for an interview during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, last year.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images file

Turning Point appears to be a major player in the 2024 primary. The organization has experienced significant growth in recent years as Kirk and his leadership have sought to expand their core mission and become a greater force on the political landscape. As NBC News reported last year, the group enjoyed a financial windfall during the pandemic, according to tax records.

Kirk’s effort to oust McDaniel culminated in the publication of an interview with DeSantis just before the committee vote that appeared to help Dhillon rise to the top. In that on-camera interview, DeSantis said the RNC needed «new blood,» giving Kirk and the pro-Dhillon camp a potential last-minute boost. McDaniel ultimately won by a vote of 111-51. Kirk’s activism, meanwhile, rattled some within the RNC, particularly after he emailed members in December suggesting he would seek to replace them if they «so boldly refused to listen to the rank and file.»

“If ignored, we will have the most stunted and silenced Republican Party in the history of the conservative movement, the likes of which we have not seen in generations,” he wrote.

A Turning Point official noted that Trump specifically stayed out of the RNC fight by not endorsing either candidate, opening the door for a broader outside effort to unseat McDaniel. Kirk wanted to talk to DeSantis about his platform for higher education, but the conversation naturally turned to RNC’s career with its prominence on the news cycle.

“Charlie and Trump have a very close relationship,” said this person, who was not authorized to speak officially. «I don’t think it’s fair for the president to invite people to fight, for Charlie to get involved, and then for someone to get hurt by it.»

The group sees itself largely as an organization that can unite wings of the conservative movement that might gravitate more toward Trump or DeSantis. Candidates like Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., who was endorsed by Turning Point’s political arm in a competitive primary and held events with both Trump and DeSantis, are signs of her success.

But just as the party was disappointed at the polls last fall, so were some prominent candidates that Turning Point helped elevate within the party.

The organization is already undergoing some changes. As The Washington Post reported On Wednesday, Turning Point’s political arm is splitting from the Students for Trump group, a conservative social media powerhouse in its own right. Meanwhile, Kirk and Turning Point officials have stressed the need to cultivate early voting among Republican voters and mimic Democratic efforts to attract voters after the big gains Republicans had hoped for in the midterms failed to materialize.

«Not only did he come out very early and publicly and endorse Trump’s 2024 campaign, anyone familiar with Charlie’s close relationship with the entire Trump family knows he is 100% on the team,» a close agent told NBC News. into Trump’s orbit. “Now, the primaries get ugly. Obviously, Trump vs. DeSantis is going to get ugly in the primaries. But nobody expects all the sponsors to get into the mud.

Turning Point and its network of affiliates have worked extensively to remake the Republican Party in Arizona, their home base, endorsing candidates on all sides of the ballot with mixed success in the last cycle. as the Post reported. Primarily, his goal was to purge center-right conservatives aligned with Republican Sen. John McCain’s brand of politics and replace those officials with Republicans more aligned with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement. In the process, he sought to position himself as a political kingmaker in the state.

“The state party and Turning Point were close at the hip,” said former Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., who withdrew from last year’s gubernatorial primary. «Everything they seemed to do, they did together.»

Although he managed to defeat some candidates, including former state House Speaker Rusty Bowers in a Republican primary for the state Senate last summer, the ranked candidates in the group suffered losses at the top of the ticket. The most notable loss was gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who packed her campaign with former Turning Point employees.

Bowers described Turning Point as «kind of like Trump, very nihilistic,» adding that the organization «will want to be able to take credit» in the 2024 Republican presidential primary no matter who wins.

“So they will kiss with different messages for each campaign,” he said. “And they have enough bandwidth in the context of social media that they can reach him from different sources and say the same thing to each candidate, so that when whoever wins wins, they can say ‘our guy won.’”

But with the 2024 cycle gaining steam, Kirk and Turning Point could soon find themselves at a crossroads.

“Trump will force them to choose,” said a Republican agent. «And that decision will come from them sooner rather than later.»