Why Ron DeSantis withdrew from the race for the Republican nomination

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the primary contender against Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, declared his withdrawal from the race and revealed his endorsement for the former Republican president

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announces his withdrawl from the Republican presidential candidacy in a still image from video released on social media January 21, 2024. Ron DeSantis campaign/ via REUTERS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY

DeSantis’ relatively early withdrawal highlights the significant influence the former president still wields within the party. Initially considered a frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination and seen as a natural successor to Trump, DeSantis faced a decline in support over the past months. This was attributed to an ineffective campaign strategy, a perceived disconnect with voters, and the reality that Trump still holds a substantial portion of the party’s hardcore base.

“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” he said in a statement. “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.”

Donald Trump secured victory in the Republican primaries in Iowa last week, merely half an hour into the voting process, solidifying his position as the preferred candidate among right-wing voters for the upcoming November presidential election.

With the conclusion of DeSantis’ candidacy, the last remaining Republican in the race with a slim chance of challenging Trump for the nomination is former US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.

The ultimate winner of the Republican nomination will contend against President Joe Biden, the anticipated Democratic nominee, in the November general election. Surveys indicate that over 70% of Republicans hold a favourable opinion of Trump, placing candidates like DeSantis in the challenging position of appealing to both Trump supporters and those who strongly disapprove of him.

Unfortunately, DeSantis struggled on both fronts. He failed to effectively communicate to the majority of Trump supporters why he was a better choice, and those Republicans looking to move away from the former president dispersed their votes among various candidates.

Nikki Haley, particularly favoured among moderate Republicans, has stood out. When DeSantis deviated from Trump on policy matters, he typically leaned towards a more conservative stance. For instance, he endorsed a six-week abortion ban in Florida in April, a position he embraced on the campaign trail despite causing apprehension among some donors and moderate Republicans.

DeSantis has actively resisted providing further US military assistance to Ukraine and has implemented punitive measures against the Walt Disney Co. following the company’s opposition to Florida legislation restricting discussions on gender and sexuality in classrooms.

The clash with Disney was deemed unnecessary by pro-business critics within the party.

DeSantis sought to position himself as an alternative to Trump, trying to cast himself as a politically successful heir to the MAGA movement and its preferred policies without Trump’s baggage. But in his bid to court Trump’s supporters, DeSantis was slow to meaningfully criticize the former president and was unable to peel away enough of his support. DeSantis’ embrace of hard-right policies also led moderate Republicans and independents to look elsewhere in their search for a candidate to steer the GOP in a different direction from Trump.

DeSantis entered the Republican presidential race with an impressive political operation and widespread popularity in the party after achieving a blowout 2022 re-election win in Florida, which had for decades been one of the most tightly divided states in the nation.

At the core of DeSantis’ campaign message was a pitch to bring his Florida blueprint to the nation. The governor pledged to dismantle the federal government’s “administrative state,” finish the southern border wall, and limit Chinese influence in the United States and abroad.

Despite initially garnering support from numerous major donors, backing for DeSantis began to wane as early as the summer.

The revelation of DeSantis endorsing Trump comes as no surprise. With his eligibility exhausted for a third term as governor in 2026 due to the two-term limit, and the current Republican senators from Florida holding their positions, DeSantis has no political career ahead. His sole prospect lies in Trump securing victory in the presidential elections, and subsequently obtaining a role within the new presidential administration.

 

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