Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – once tipped as Donald Trump’s biggest challenger for the Republican presidential nomination – has suspended his campaign.
It comes after Mr DeSantis only narrowly beat his nearest rival, Nikki Haley, to second place in the Republican Party’s Iowa caucuses, far behind Mr Trump, who scored a record-breaking victory.
Mr DeSantis announced his decision in a video posted on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, in which he endorsed Mr Trump for president.
He said, following the result and “deliberation” with his campaign team, that he could no longer see a “clear path to victory” in the Republican race.
“If there was anything I could do to produce a favourable outcome, more campaign stops, more interviews, I would do it,” he said.
“But I can’t ask our supporters to volunteer their time and donate their resources. We don’t have a clear path to victory.
“Accordingly, I am today suspending my campaign.”
Giving his endorsement to Mr Trump, he added: “It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance.
“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.”
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The move comes two days before the New Hampshire primary – where Ms Haley is tipped to perform well.
Mr DeSantis, who campaigned heavily in Iowa, had reportedly shifted his campaign team’s focus to the next primary, in Ms Haley’s home state of South Carolina, prior to Sunday’s announcement.
Ms Haley declared “may the best woman win” in response to his exit from the race, promising to “fight all the way until the last second”.
Mr Trump did not mention Mr DeSantis’s withdrawal during a short speech to Republican voters in Rochester, New Hampshire, on Sunday.
However, his campaign team said in a statement they were “honoured” by Mr DeSantis’s endorsement, before calling on Republicans to “rally behind” Mr Trump.
He’ll fight them on the seas and oceans, he’ll fight them on the beaches… Ron DeSantis just won’t fight them in New Hampshire.
The Florida governor is fond of quoting Winston Churchill in a set-piece speech and he did it again in the social media address that announced the suspension of his campaign.
Two days before the New Hampshire primary, Churchillian it wasn’t – this was surrender.
And yet, there was a time when he was the Republican hot ticket, Donald Trump’s biggest danger. Like others before him, and around him, DeSantis couldn’t live with the party’s big beast. There is space on the Trump wing of the party only for the man himself.
The hard-right culture wars strategy didn’t resonate with the wider audience and neither did the anti-woke warrior himself. Politics in the United States is partly performance art and Ron DeSantis is no performer.
For an experienced political player and successful Florida governor, he was curiously undercooked at the bigger table. America’s most promising politician became its most awkward when the cameras were turned on – nor does he “do” people. A DeSantis meet and greet always looked more greet than meet.
He spoke of the folly of asking for donations without a “clear path” to success. Equally, donors would have seen the folly of backing a loser. Tens of millions of dollars had been thrown at his campaign ahead of the Iowa caucus – it was a first test of voter opinion and the numbers for DeSantis didn’t represent a good investment.
For all that, he’ll be back. In stepping down, he trailed as much by endorsing Trump and his politics, bridge-building to the man and his base, surely with 2028 in mind.
The more immediate question is how the DeSantis vote decants into the primary process he leaves behind. It should cut two ways – he occupies a space on the Republican right and so Trump will feel some benefit, endorsement or not.
Nikki Haley needs the numbers most. A CNN poll two days before the New Hampshire primary had her 11 percentage points behind Donald Trump. She has always styled this as a two person contest and now benefits from being the sole contender for the “Trump alternative” vote. In Iowa, Donald Trump enjoyed a double triumph – the victory itself and the fact that 50% of voters who didn’t back him were being fought over by his two rivals. No more.
The contests to come will provide the accurate measure of who gains. For this race to last, it has to be Haley in New Hampshire. In the Granite state, common consensus has it that she has to pass the momentum test. Realistically that means victory, otherwise she’ll be left contemplating a path less clear.
Ron DeSantis knows the feeling.
A proponent of hard-right and “anti-woke” policies, Mr DeSantis had sought to position himself as an alternative to Mr Trump.
He had attempted to cast himself as a politically successful heir to the Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement without Mr Trump’s baggage – a move which saw him labelled “Trump-lite” by his opponents.
Mr DeSantis also carried into the race a strong election record, having achieved a blowout 2022 re-election win in Florida, which had for decades been one of the most tightly divided states in the nation.
But he struggled to peel away enough of Mr Trump’s support, while Ms Haley, a former UN ambassador, mopped up moderate Republican voters.
His campaign team reportedly spent tens of millions of dollars going door-to-door to promote Mr DeSantis in Iowa.
However, while he came in second, he was still 30 percentage points behind Mr Trump, who captured more than 50% of the roughly 110,000 votes.
Written by: Newsroom