Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) dropped out of the Republican presidential primary Sunday, marking the end of a stunning rise and fall for a candidate once seen as the most formidable rival to former President Trump.
“Following our second-place finish in Iowa, we’ve prayed and deliberated on our way forward,” DeSantis said in a video message posted on X, a few hours ahead of an event he had scheduled in New Hampshire. “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.”
“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” the governor continued. “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.”
DeSantis went on to signal his support for Trump while hitting former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
“I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee and I will honor that pledge. 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 had been seen as the most viable Trump alternative after sweeping to reelection as Florida governor during last year’s midterm elections. His victory was in sharp contrast to how other Republicans performed around the country, including many who had been endorsed by Trump.
The Florida governor launched his official bid in May with the support of a number of GOP campaign veterans in his campaign apparatus and super PAC.
But DeSantis was not able to gain traction against Trump, his one-time political ally. DeSantis’s campaign got off to a rocky start when its Twitter Spaces launch was plagued with technical glitches. And the governor faced criticism over his personality on the campaign trail, with critics labeling him as awkward.
Though he placed second in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, he still fell well short of Trump, winning just 21 percent to Trump’s 51 percent. He was widely expected to fare poorly in New Hampshire, where former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley (R) is seen as the most competitive rival to the former president.
Ahead of his exit from the GOP primary on Sunday, The Hill’s Decision Desk HQ average showed DeSantis coming in third place in New Hampshire with 7.2 percent and in South Carolina with 8.3 percent.
DeSantis’s exit from the race is likely to benefit Trump, who shares a base with the Florida governor. At a campaign event at Trump campaign headquarters in Manchester, N.H. on Sunday prior to DeSantis dropping out, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said he would welcome DeSantis back into the Trump orbit.
“I remember the good old days when I was Ron DeSantis’s transition chairman and he and President Trump worked so well together,” Gatez, a top surrogate to Trump, told supporters.
“I hate when mom and dad fight,” he continued, receiving laughs from the crowd. “It turns out we might get Ron DeSantis back on side pretty soon and I would welcome that,” he said to applause.
Updated 3:55 p.m.