Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who entered the 2024 presidential race with a bankroll rivaling that of coup-attempting former President Donald Trump, dropped his bid for the GOP nomination on Sunday — and endorsed Trump on his way out.
“Nobody worked harder and we left it all out on the field,” DeSantis said in a video posted on X, formerly Twitter, before going on to say, “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. Accordingly, I am today suspending my campaign.”
DeSantis then added that he was backing Trump over former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the remaining major candidate in the race.
“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” he said, adding, “He has 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.”
At a campaign stop in Seabrook, New Hampshire, Haley acknowledged DeSantis’ announcement.
“I want to say to Ron, he ran a great race. He’s been a good governor, and we wish him well. Having said that, it’s now one fella and one lady left,” she said.
“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
The announcement comes just days after DeSantis claimed he had gotten his “ticket punched” to continue his campaign despite finishing a distant second to Trump in the Iowa caucuses. Late polls in that state showed that DeSantis could finish third behind Haley. When DeSantis ultimately finished just two points ahead of her, he tried to spin it as a victory ― even though he had previously said he had to win Iowa to win the nomination.
DeSantis was polling even worse in New Hampshire and South Carolina than he had been in Iowa, and his campaign seemed uncertain of a strategy going forward. His first stop after Iowa was a campaign visit to South Carolina, a contest that is a full month after New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday. He was to return to New Hampshire on Friday, but then was planning to head back to South Carolina on Saturday.
Republicans who feared Trump could not win a general election, particularly wealthy party donors, had initially lined up behind DeSantis after his nearly 20-point reelection as governor in November 2022. That star power allowed him to continue collecting donations of unlimited size in a state account and eventually transfer more than $80 million into a federal super PAC created to support him.
But DeSantis’ high point in the campaign turned out to be just after that reelection victory, when some polls showed him actually ahead of Trump for the 2024 nomination.
However, that began to change quickly. Trump entered the race just weeks after those midterm elections and soon began attacking DeSantis in speeches, online and even in television ads.
DeSantis chose not to enter the race himself until the end of Florida’s legislative session in May, by which point he was polling only in the 20s both nationally and in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The poor polling resulted in weaker fundraising, which resulted in two rounds of staff layoffs and shakeups ― even though much of the logistical work of the campaign was effectively outsourced to the relatively flush Never Back Down super PAC.
An even bigger problem for DeSantis, though, may have been something even the best fundraising could do nothing about: his personality. Longtime Florida Republicans told HuffPost a year ago that DeSantis has never seemed to enjoy interacting with people.
That trait, as it turns out, became a major liability in a primary race that still places a high value on personal interactions with primary voters in the early voting states.
“His problem is that the more people see him, the less they like him,” said one influential New Hampshire Republican, speaking on condition of anonymity.