Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis entered the GOP presidential primary campaign as the candidate most likely to mount a serious challenge to former president Donald Trump.
DeSantis dropped out of the race Sunday and endorsed Trump. The announcement, made via a video on social media, marked the underwhelming end to a campaign that had been in steady decline for months. It’s also a boost to Trump’s hopes to win another GOP contest with 50 percent (or more) of the vote and a blow to Nikki Haley’s longshot bid for a Granite State upset.
“Following our second-place finish in Iowa, we have prayed and deliberated on the way forward,” DeSantis said in his statement. “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 said.
The reaction from Trump supporters and the Haley campaign was swift.
“Gov. DeSantis getting out of the race for President Trump is further evidence the race for the GOP nomination is over,” Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told NHJournal. “Trump is the nominee. Now let’s unite to beat Joe Biden.”
Haley’s campaign released the following statement:
“So far, only one state has voted. Half of its votes went to Donald Trump, and half did not. We’re not a country of coronations. Voters deserve a say in whether we go down the road of Trump and Biden again or we go down a new conservative road. New Hampshire voters will have their say on Tuesday.
“When I’m president, I will do everything in my power to show them they made the right decision,” Haley said.
DeSantis’ announcement came at the end of a troubled weekend for him. On Friday, he left about 30 members of the local and national media shivering in the cold for an hour at an outdoor press conference. When he finally showed up, he only took three questions and never said the word “New Hampshire.”
Meanwhile, the crowd waiting for DeSantis at an event in Nashua was regaled by performance artist/presidential candidate Vermin Supreme, chanting “Free Ponies” and mocking DeSantis over his footwear. Once DeSantis appeared, climate activists tried to disrupt the event before being dragged out of the Courtyard Marriott meeting room by security.
DeSantis spent Saturday in South Carolina. He never returned to the Granite State.
The governor’s fortunes appeared much brighter in April 2023, when polls showed him holding about 30 percent of the First in the Nation GOP primary vote and within 14 points of Trump. In the most recent Suffolk University tracking poll released Sunday morning, DeSantis was at six percent.
In his video statement, DeSantis both endorsed Trump and rejected Haley’s candidacy.
“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance. They watched his presidency get stymied by relentless resistance, and they see Democrats using lawfare to this day to attack him,” DeSantis said.
“While I have had disagreements with Donald Trump, such as on the coronavirus pandemic and his elevation of Anthony Fauci, Trump is superior to the current incumbent, Joe Biden. That is clear.
“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,” DeSantis added.
In the two most recent polls of Granite State GOP primary voters, Trump held 50 percent or more of the vote while Haley was polling in the upper 30s. Polls have consistently shown that more DeSantis voters name Trump their second choice in the field than Haley.
“It’s done,” one veteran New Hampshire GOP strategist told NHJournal on background.
But Pat Griffin, who has worked on multiple presidential and statewide races in the Granite State, isn’t ready to close the door entirely.
“It’s still New Hampshire, and anything can happen!”