Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) warned Tuesday that he saw a “lack of enthusiasm” among GOP voters in the Iowa caucuses last week, and that declining appeal among moderates is “a huge warning sign” for the Republican Party’s 2024 hopes.
The governor dropped out of the GOP presidential race Sunday after a lackluster performance in the caucuses, finishing a distant second to former President Trump.
“When I have people come up to me who voted for Reagan in ’76 and have been conservative their whole life say that they don’t want to vote for Trump again, that’s a problem,” DeSantis said in a BlazeTV interview Tuesday, his first since leaving the race.
Turnout in the Iowa caucuses was much lower than in 2016, with just 110,000 caucusgoers participating compared with 187,000 eight years ago. Weather was partially to blame, with record-low temperatures discouraging participation, but DeSantis saw a bigger problem.
“I think there’s an enthusiasm problem overall, and then I also just think there are some voters that have checked out at this point that you got to find a way to get them back,” he continued.
The governor blamed the media, claiming that major outlets made Trump’s victory look “inevitable,” and that the notion hurt his campaign.
“We started noticing this in the fall, where voters who had caucused in 2016, previous caucusgoers, when they were being polled, they said they’re definitely not caucusing,” DeSantis said. “[The voters] did not want to see Trump nominated again, but they had basically been told that it was inevitable, that it was over.”
DeSantis endorsed Trump after dropping out, despite campaigning against him for months. He predicted that the number of voters who have “checked out” would grow over time, as Trump wins primary states.
“Those are the voters you need to be competitive,” he said.
The governor made similar comments just before ending his campaign in an interview published Monday. He blamed the media for making Trump’s support appear stronger than it is, depressing turnout for other candidates.
“I mean, I think that the reality is, [Trump] is a guy that has not been willing to debate. He’s not been willing to answer questions from voters. He’s basically run a basement campaign,” he said. “And so far, he’s gotten away with it because I think he hasn’t been, been hit by the media for it.”