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DeSantis is out! What does this mean for the Presidential race?

By Milly Owen


In an unprecedented move on Sunday 21st January, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has pulled out of the Republican Primaries and therefore any hope of winning a Presidential election in 2024. This followed a 2nd place finish in the Republican Iowa Caucus, a huge upset considering his dedication to winning the state. DeSantis poured above $100 million into the state (contributing about 1% in delegate votes for the party convention), visited all 99 counties and hoped to produce large momentum for the rest of his presidential bid. Instead, he received 23,420 votes, each vote equating to about $6,000 worth of funding each. 


In his speech, he states ‘It is clear the majority of the Republican Primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance’, his piece was straight to camera, and he was surrounded by American flags. Whilst it had a positive tone, it was clearly heavily scripted, showing an inorganic sentiment of positivity towards his political future. In this speech he surprisingly endorsed Trump, which comes after a deeply personal and bitter feud. Nicknames like ‘Ron DeSanctimonious’ and ‘Meatball Ron’ taunted him throughout his campaign. This has been perceived by many voters as a ‘tail between his legs’ moment; a realisation he cannot beat the Trump machine.


Seeing this withdrawing video is highly reminiscent of his 2022 speech following his victory in the race to become the Governor of Florida by around 20 points: a landslide majority. He was surrounded by flags with the crowd chanting ‘2 more years!’ with optimism for his presidential run. After this election win, he was polling at 35%, within reaching distance of his biggest rival. DeSantis was supposed to be the biggest threat to Donald Trump in the lead up to the 2024 election, so what went wrong? 


There is a huge problem with the candidate himself - his lack of charisma. He is perceived as awkward, his interactions with voters are borderline uncomfortable. Others speculate that he launched his campaign too late, Trump was campaigning for the electoral bid years before and had managed to re-establish his reputation following numerous legal battles. By the time DeSantis launched his campaign, Trump had reached 50% support in the Republican polls. Essentially, Trump is an incumbent candidate, with 2 prior presidential campaigns under his belt, with recognition and relevance maintained over 4 years of Biden’s presidency. 


DeSantis was unfortunately doomed from the start, the minute he decided to oppose Trump, his campaign was over. A primary reason DeSantis was successful in his election to the Governor of Florida was due to the endorsement of Donald Trump. His career has been intrinsically linked to that of the former president, and he overestimated his political capital without the backing of the Trump campaign. When the Trumpian masses turned against Ron, the bullying and the name calling haunted him, he never managed to escape from the shadow of his previous endorser leading to his inevitable failure.


So, what’s next for DeSantis? Is he gunning for the Vice Presidency? Political spectators think not, reasoning that he is instead gunning for a second shot at the race in 2028. But is this in any way realistic? Currently, his antisocial personality is not suited to the role, he appears aloof and uncaring about political issues in conversation to voters. It’s told by members of the Floridian Senate that DeSantis ‘puts his AirPods in and pretends to take a phone call’ to avoid talking to other members. Ultimately, DeSantis’ career is the result of Trump’s endorsement, he even stated that he ‘would not be the Governor of Florida without the endorsement of Donald Trump’, and this betrayal of the man who set up his career makes him incredibly unattractive to this core of voters that he hoped to win over. 


What does this mean for the rest of the Primaries and ultimately the Presidential election? The New Hampshire primaries took place on Monday 22nd January, Donald Trump being the overall winner with 54%, Haley trailing with 43%, not the huge landslide the Trump team were hoping for, but still a sizable majority. A small enough margin, however, for Haley to remain in the race with high hopes for the next stop, her home state of South Carolina to bring her to the White House. Whilst this is a Trumpian state if there ever was one, there is a sense amongst the campaigning and speeches of Haley that she is waiting for something to happen. She is hoping for Trump to be imprisoned or to have a few more ‘elderly’ moments, trashing himself, and she will be waiting in the wings to accept the nominations. But it seems, without any contingencies, it will be a 2020 flashback to the Trump/ Biden race, which will certainly be a very interesting rematch indeed.

Image: Flicker / Gage Skidmore

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