DeSantis Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Trump
DeSantis Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Trump

By Austin Alonzo

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has ended his campaign for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

On Jan. 21, in a 4 1/2 minute video posted on the social media platform X, the Florida governor announced he had suspended his bid for the presidency. The announcement came two days ahead of the New Hampshire primary.

“Following our second-place finish in Iowa, we’ve prayed and deliberated on the way forward. If there was anything I could do to produce a favorable outcome—more campaign stops, more interviews—I would do it. But I can’t ask our supporters to volunteer their time and donate their resources if we don’t have a clear path to victory,” Mr. DeSantis said in his video message.

“Accordingly, I am now today suspending my campaign.”

In the same announcement, Mr. DeSantis endorsed former President Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner.

“He has my endorsement because we cannot go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear,” Mr. DeSantis said. “A repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”

With Mr. DeSantis’s withdrawal, only former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley stands in the way of President Trump’s reclaiming the GOP nomination, which would set up a rematch of the 2020 presidential election.

“He ran a great race, he’s been a good governor, and we wish him well,” Ms. Haley told a crowd of supporters at a campaign stop at Brown’s Lobster Pound in Seabrook, New Hampshire, upon hearing the news. “Having said that, it’s now one fella and one lady left.”

Her campaign released a statement shortly afterward:

“So far, only one state has voted. Half of its votes went to Donald Trump, and half did not. We’re not a country of coronations. Voters deserve a say in whether we go down the road of Trump and Biden again, or we go down a new conservative road.”

Just days before, in spite of losing to Mr. DeSantis in Iowa, Ms. Haley declared the competition for the GOP nomination a two-horse race.

Mr. DeSantis ended his candidacy only two days ahead of New Hampshire’s Jan. 23 presidential primary election. Although Mr. DeSantis edged Ms. Haley in the Iowa caucuses with 21.2 percent of the vote, to her 19.1 percent, he finished far behind President Trump, who took 51 percent of the votes cast.

That loss came after a long and expensive campaign in Iowa. Mr. DeSantis followed the well-worn playbook of retail politicking in Iowa. He hit all of its 99 counties, he invested heavily in advertising, promoting himself and criticizing his opponents, and his campaign claimed to have more than 50,000 voters lined up to back him at the polls. On caucus day, fewer than half of that number came.

In New Hampshire polling, Mr. DeSantis was running well behind President Trump and Ms. Haley. Although he once ran close to President Trump there, by January, he had less than 10 percent of Granite Staters lined up to vote for him.

The DeSantis campaign got off to a promising start. He won a landslide reelection bid against former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in November 2022 after his star rose high in conservative circles for keeping the Sunshine State open while much of the country was shutting down during the initial outbreak of COVID-19.

In early polling ahead of his announcement, Mr. DeSantis was running near President Trump on the strength of his conservative reputation. However, as time wore on and the former president was hit with indictments, President Trump ascended to the top spot while Mr. DeSantis gradually fell out of favor.

The DeSantis campaign also was dogged by rumors of infighting and a lack of strategic organization. Its largest financial backer, Never Back Down Inc., saw its leadership change frequently toward the end of 2023 and lost its chief strategist, noted Republican consultant and founder of Axiom Strategies Jeff Roe. It also saw its largest donor defect to President Trump.

Political science observers in Iowa saw that Mr. DeSantis’s message wasn’t resonating with regular voters in the Hawkeye State, The Epoch Times has  previously reported.

Karen Kedrowski, a professor of political science at Iowa State University, said in a January interview that the DeSantis campaign made the huge miscalculation of not anticipating his message would fall flat with voters.

Ultimately, Mr. DeSantis didn’t demonstrate enough difference between himself and President Trump, Ms. Kedrowski said. The campaign, defined by sagging poll figures and constant reports of dysfunction, couldn’t shake an image of protracted decline.

Near the end of the campaign, Mr. DeSantis became more combative with Ms. Haley. They held a fraught debate on Jan. 11 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Now, if President Trump is victorious in New Hampshire, it may well end the Republican Party’s primaries well before so-called Super Tuesday in early March.

“Nobody worked harder, and we left it all out on the field,” Mr. DeSantis said in his X video. “While this campaign has ended, the mission continues. Down here in Florida, we will continue to show the country how to lead.”

Jackson Richman contributed to this report. 

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