DeSantis drops out of presidential race, endorses Trump

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Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped out of the Republican presidential campaign Sunday and endorsed former President Donald Trump, ending a quest for the White House that struggled almost as soon as it started.

DeSantis revealed the suspension of his campaign in a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, the same social media site where a glitchy event kicked off his campaign just eight months ago.

“Nobody worked harder, and we left it all out on the field,” DeSantis said in a video, but he concluded there was no way he could continue and win. “It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance.”

DeSantis, 45, said he endorsed Trump because “we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear … that Nikki Haley represents.”

His decision came after months of disappointing performances, including a nearly 30-point loss to Trump in the Iowa caucuses last week after he spent tens of millions of dollars in that state. He visited all 99 counties seeking support from voters but didn’t win a single one.

Mac Stipanovich, a Tallahassee consultant who has been one of DeSantis’ harshest critics, said DeSantis’ eventual downfall “was foreseeable.”

“The likelihood that someone as wooden and calculating as Ron DeSantis was going to defeat Donald Trump for the presidential nomination in today’s GOP was just ludicrous from the start,” Stipanovich said. “That was compounded by the fact that he was a terrible campaigner. He had a bad strategy and poor execution. And he surrounded himself with inexperienced and incompetent people.”

As recently as last week, DeSantis was insistent that he was in it for the long haul, telling a crowd at his caucus-night party in Iowa he had his “ticket punched” out of the state thanks to his narrow second-place finish.

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But by Thursday, it was becoming clear that DeSantis was beginning to see the end of his campaign.

“I don’t want to be VP, I don’t want to be in the Cabinet, I don’t want a TV show,” he told political commentator Hugh Hewitt on his radio show. “I’m in it to win it, and at some point, if that’s not working out for you, I recognize that. This isn’t a vanity thing for me.”

Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, finished just behind DeSantis in third place in Iowa and is expected to pose a challenge to Trump in New Hampshire, according to some recent polls.

On Sunday, Haley said DeSantis “ran a great race, he’s been a good governor, and we wish him well.”

DeSantis’ campaign canceled his Sunday appearances on “Meet the Press” and other national programs, and all upcoming events were absent from his campaign website as of Saturday.

“He could hang on, and take beating after humiliating beating, further doing damage to whatever image he has left,” Stipanovich said. “But the smart thing to do, and this is the first smart thing he’s done in a long time, is to avoid those beatings.”

Now, when he comes in a distant third in New Hampshire on Tuesday, “he can say, ‘Well, I dropped out,'” Stipanovich said. “Nikki Haley was going to beat him in South Carolina. Now he can say ‘Well, … I dropped out.’ He would have been smarter if he dropped out before Iowa.”

Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire, said that after “a lot of brave talk” about moving beyond the Granite State to South Carolina, “the candidate came to grips with reality.”

The next major primary in South Carolina was also more than a month after New Hampshire, Scala said.

“A month is an eternity in presidential politics,” he said. “And what was the campaign going to live off for a month?”

Gregory Koger, a professor of political science at the University of Miami, agreed that financial realities were one reason the campaign ended abruptly. DeSantis and his affiliated political committee, Never Back Down, burned through $150 million since the campaign began, and the PAC announced layoffs shortly after his Iowa loss.

“They weren’t able to make a case [to donors] about how things were going to turn around soon,” Koger said.

But, Koger said, after months of bitterness, “there’s some bad blood between DeSantis world and Trump world. … It does seem to be possible for people to get back into Trump’s good graces if they’re really, really, really publicly loyal over a long period of time. But DeSantis may not be willing to do that.”

DeSantis’ decision to quit means he’ll be returning to Florida after months on the campaign trail. His time as governor doesn’t end until January 2027, and term limits prevent him from running again.

State Democrats say they will be ready for him.

“Now that he’s finally done chasing a pipe dream, Florida Democrats are fully focused on ending the Republican supermajority in our legislature, fighting his racist, misogynist, homophobic, and transphobic policies at every turn, and keeping an increasingly dangerous Donald Trump away from office by re-electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in November,” said Florida Democratic Party chair Nikki Fried.

Asked about DeSantis’ exit, Trump said he would no longer call the Florida governor by one of his favorite derogatory nicknames.

“Will I be using the name ‘Ron DeSanctimonious?'” Trump said. “That name is officially retired.”