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Ron DeSantis drops out of presidential race after campaign’s failure to launch

Ron DeSantis is suspending his 2024 presidential campaign.

“We don’t have a clear path to victory. Accordingly, I am today suspending my campaign,” Mr DeSantis said. “I’m proud to have delivered on 100% of my promises. I will not stop now.”

The Florida governor went on to endorse former president Donald Trump for the nomination.

“I’ve had disagreements with Donald Trump, such as on the Coronavirus pandemic, and his elevation of Anthony Fauci,” he said. “Trump is superior to the current incumbent Joe Biden.”

“I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee and I will honour that pledge,” he continued. “He has my endorsement because we can't go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, or a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”

At his own New Hampshire rally on Sunday, Mr Trump responded to the news that his one-time Republican rival had given him his backing with some rare praise.

Gone were Mr Trump’s favoured nicknames for the Florida governor – “DeSantimonious” or “DeSanctus” – as perhaps the most bitter rivalry of the Republicans’ 2024 campaign seemed to come to an abrupt end.

“I just want to thank Ron and congratulate him on doing a very good job,” Mr Trump said at the outset of his remarks.

“He was very gracious, and he endorsed me. I appreciate that, and I also look forward to working with Ron.”

Mr Trump described Mr DeSantis as “a really terrific person”.

Earlier, the Trump campaign issued a statement to tell voters “it’s time to choose wisely” between Mr Trump and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, the only other candidate left in the race for the GOP nomination.

“Nikki Haley is the candidate of the globalists and Democrats who will do everything to stop the America First movement,” the statement read. “From higher taxes, to decimating Social Security and Medicare, and to open borders, she represents the views of Democrats more than the views of Republicans.”

Ms Haley said Mr DeSantis “ran a great race” after receiving the news he had dropped out during a New Hampshire campaign event.

“He’s been a good governor, and we wish him well,” Ms Haley said on Sunday afternoon. “Having said that, it’s now one fella and one lady left.”

California governor Gavin Newsom also chimed in on Sunday afternoon: “Fire sale on all Ron DeSantis merch today!” The two governors have long had a bitter rivalry and faced off just last month in a debate hosted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

Sarafina Chitika, national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, released a statement in response to the Florida governor suspending his campaign.

“Ron DeSantis pinned his entire campaign’s hopes on the same extreme MAGA agenda that both Donald Trump and Nikki Haley are still running on, and now he is the latest member of the GOP to fall in line behind the original MAGA brand,” Ms Chitika said in a statement provided to The Independent.

Mr DeSantis’ announcement comes just two days ahead of the New Hampshire Republican primary, in which Mr DeSantis was polling in third place with single digits after winning second place in the Iowa Republican caucus. If Mr DeSantis received less than 10 per cent of the vote, as the polls were projecting, he would have been inelligble for any delegates per state primary rules.

Mr DeSantis also cancelled his Sunday media appearances ahead of this announcement, with press secretary Bryan Griffin claiming it was due to scheduling issues. The move prompted questions about the future of his campaign hours before Sunday afternoon’s confirmation.

The Florida governor’s campaign was plagued by challenges long before the primary season kicked off in Iowa.

The first sign of trouble began nearly one year ago, when Mr Trump’s campaign ran an attack ad centered around rumours Mr DeSantis ate pudding with his fingers. That rumour, which originated from a Daily Beast story in March 2023, circulated for months afterwards. The governor himself even referenced it in a discussion with CNN’s Jake Tapper, telling the anchor of his electability: “The proof is in the pudding.”

Troubles for the DeSantis campaign only escalated from there.

As the campaign escalated, Mr DeSantis seemed to avoid discussion of Mr Trump, apparently waiting for the former president to lose the nomination on his own, per analysis from The Independent’s Washington, DC Bureau Chief and Senior Washington Correspondent Eric Garcia.

Then, last month, Jeff Roe left his role as top adviser to Never Back Down, the super PAC backing the DeSantis campaign. The move came just hours after The Washington Post published a story about the internal disputes and suspicions between the PAC, the campaign and DeSantis’ allies.

“I cannot in good conscience stay affiliated with Never Back Down given the statements in the Washington Post today,” Mr Roe said in a statement on X. “They are not true and an unwanted distraction at a critical time for Governor DeSantis.”

NBC News also published an exclusive report on Sunday detailing the pitfalls of the DeSantis campaign.

“This thing blew up on the launch pad,” a former adviser to the governor told the outlet. “They had six months to get ready for very serious strategic questions, the most important of which was how to deal with Donald Trump. They had no answers. We are nine months in, and they still have not figured it out.”

That same report revealed a peculiar behaviour by Scott Wagner, who took over as CEO of Never Back Down in December: He spent a significant amount of time constructing a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle at the PAC headquarters in West Des Moines, Iowa.

If Mr Trump secures the 2024 Republican nomination, Mr DeSantis could possibly be a contender for the vice presidency. However, Mr Trump’s pick remains to be seen, as the former president claims he has already chosen a running mate but refuses to reveal their identity.

Last week, the former president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., said both Mr DeSantis and former Fox News personality Tucker Carlson are among the contenders for Mr Trump’s vice president.

The former president’s eldest son, however, did say he would “make sure” Ms Haley wasn’t an option.

“I don’t think that’s currently really on the table,” he said of the former South Carolina governor.

The Independent has contacted Mr DeSantis’ campaign and Never Back Down for additional comment.