Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has dropped out of the 2024 presidential race, ending a faltering bid where he tried to cast himself as a Trump-like candidate in a race where so much of the Republican base ended up preferring the real thing.
In a videotaped message posted this afternoon, DeSantis said that he was suspending his campaign and endorsing Donald Trump.
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“It is clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” DeSantis said in the video, in which he thanked his staff and his wife and quoted Winston Churchill, kind of.
DeSantis’ exit leaves just Trump and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley in the race, with Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary likely to show whether the bid for the GOP nomination is all but over.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
– Winston Churchill pic.twitter.com/ECoR8YeiMm
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantis) January 21, 2024
“While I have had disagreements with Donald Trump, such as on the coronavirus pandemic and his elevation of Anthony Fauci, Trump is superior to the current incumbent, Joe Biden,” DeSantis said. “That is clear. I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee, and I will honor that pledge. He gets my endorsement because we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”
Shortly after DeSantis’ announcement, Haley said at a campaign appearance, “It’s now one fella and one lady left.” In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Haley said that the GOP nominee “is going to be me. And I know you all want to talk about it like it’s still him. Seventy percent of Americans don’t want to see a Trump-Biden rematch.”
A Haley victory on Tuesday may extend the race to the South Carolina primary next month, but a Trump blowout would raise doubts about her viability in future contests.
DeSantis placed a distant second to Trump in Iowa last week, but he was far behind the former president and Haley in recent polls of New Hampshire voters. Instead, DeSantis had spent a good chunk of the last week in South Carolina, but he faced long shot prospects there, too. The superPAC supporting his candidacy, Never Back Down, laid off staffers after the Iowa caucuses.
DeSantis started last year as a prospective candidate who was giving Trump a serious challenge for the nomination. Coming off a landslide re-election bid as Florida governor, DeSantis had trumpeted his role in the culture wars, including taking on The Walt Disney Co. as “woke,” even though it was one of the largest employers in the state.
But Trump began to consolidate support as he faced multiple criminal indictments, charactering himself as under attack from the left. Save for a swipe at Trump for his Stormy Daniels hush money case, DeSantis muted his attacks and largely bought in to the former president’s grievance that his legal woes were politically motivated. He continued to do so in today’s video.
By the time that DeSantis officially entered the presidential race in May — in a glitch-filled, audio-only Twitter Spaces event with Elon Musk — there already were signs that he would face a challenge against Trump as he accelerated his attacks on him, calling him “Ron DeSanctimonious.” DeSantis also cocooned himself in right wing media, and he at times seemed awkward in the retail politics of the campaign trail.
While he initially blasted “woke” Disney in his attacks on the campaign trail for its opposition to a parental rights bill, known as “don’t say gay,” some rivals and other business-minded Republicans said he went too far in making the company a target. Haley, in fact, said that she would welcome Disney to South Carolina.
DeSantis’ decision to drop out was not a surprise to journalists on the trail in New Hampshire. He abruptly canceled a series of Sunday show appearances that were to take place earlier today, while his campaign characterized it as a scheduling issue.
His exit led to a slew of biting messages on X/Twitter, particularly from Democrats.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, who has frequently sparred with DeSantis and did a Fox News debate with him in November, wrote on Twitter after the Florida governor’s announcement, “Fire sale on all Ron DeSantis merch today!”
Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) posted a picture of Mickey Mouse on Twitter, “You come at the king, you best not miss.”
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) January 21, 2024
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