Ron DeSantis’s political action committee is called Never Back Down. Well, he just did. A week ago, he said of Trump: “You can be the most worthless Republican in America, but if you kiss the ring he’ll say you’re wonderful.” Well, he just endorsed Trump for the presidency in 2024.
This morning, DeSantis campaign staff batted away speculation that he would imminently quit, saying “with 100 percent certainty” that DeSantis would fight on to the South Carolina primary next month and beyond. Hours later, Ron proved them wrong. “While this campaign has ended, the mission continues,” he said in a video. Bowing to the seemingly inevitable, he endorsed Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee.
His withdrawal from the race should benefit Nikki Haley, now the only serious challenger taking on Trump for the Republican nomination. But not by much. He was polling so low in New Hampshire as to be almost irrelevant and most of his supporters will probably follow Ron and fall into Trumpist line.
The DeSantis campaign will be remembered as a colossal failure. He raised more than $150 million to achieve a distant second in the Iowa Caucuses. It all looked so promising a year ago.
From late 2022, when the Trump-dominated Republican Party underperformed in the midterm elections, to early 2023, Republican voters appeared finally to be suffering from “Trump fatigue.” The re-elected Florida governor, Ron DeFuture, as Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post dubbed him, was ideally placed to capitalize.
His backers and strategists believed, with so many Trump-allergic donors behind him, he could easily brush the other Republican wannabes aside and take down the Donald. He pitched himself as Trump with brains; Trump but you get two terms; Trump but he gets things done.
But the muddle of his campaign strategy belied the competent image he wants to project. His effort, with a PAC led by former Ted Cruz consultants, misjudged the mood of the Republican electorate — and only proved that in 2024 the party’s voters aren’t all that interested in conservative ideals. They are loyal, mostly, to Donald Trump. They want Trump, flaws and all.
From the off, and that glitched announcement with Elon Musk on Twitter, DeSantis’s candidacy seemed cursed. Never Back Down has reportedly been blighted by all sorts of bickering and in-fighting. Maybe it’s a kind of Trump voodoo.
In 2016, Ted Cruz won Iowa by playing to evangelicals. He then got 11 percent in New Hampshire and won in Oklahoma, Alaska and his home state of Texas only to be blown away by Trump in the end. DeSantis’s failure to win Iowa proved that he couldn’t even do that.
The biggest problem with Ron DeSantis 2024 was Ron DeSantis. In his highly successful gubernatorial reelection campaign in Florida in 2022, he was able to project an image of himself as an industrious and powerful figure. But running for the presidency required something different. It demanded a charismatic magic that seemed often to escape him.
On Friday, he arrived an hour late for a press event in St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. He kept a small gaggle of his fans waiting in the blistering cold in order to do an interview on Fox News. When he finally emerged from his car, face like thunder, he grumpily rattled through his talking points: “Trump tweeted law and order but he did nothing to ensure law and order” and Trump “gives the Democrats their best chance at retaining power.”
He suggested, as he often has, that the polls showing Trump ahead of Biden were fixed by a Democratic establishment that knows it can defeat Trump in November. “You are probably going to see them go the other way pretty shortly.” Such talk implicitly suggests an acceptance of defeat.
DeSantis also attempted to downplay Trump’s 52 percent majority victory in Iowa, pointing towards the low turnout as evidence that voters aren’t that excited about Trump. “I think Reagan would have got over 80 percent,” he said. Given that DeSantis only got 21 percent, this all sounded bitter and off. Not only was he making it clear that he, Ron, was no Reagan, he also unconsciously elevated Trump, a president who left office with an approval rating below 35 percent, by comparing him to the most successful Republican president of the twentieth century.
It’s easy to see why DeSantis looked bolshy. He could have endorsed Trump this year and positioned himself as heir apparent ahead of the 2028 presidential election. Instead, urged on by many around him, he took a gamble and now DeFuture is considerably less bright.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.