On Sunday 21 January 2024, Ron DeSantis announced that he would be ending his bid for the White House, concluding that there was no “clear path to victory.” The Florida Governor also publicly endorsed Donald Trump for the 2024 presidential election and stated that, despite existing disagreements with the former president, he was adamant that Trump was still a far superior choice compared to the incumbent, Joe Biden.
So, why did DeSantis fail? Just two years ago, the Republican darling was considered a firm favourite for the position of commander-in-chief, however, it seems as though the Governor’s mission to win the award for ‘most right-wing president ever’ may’ve alienated the very conservatives he so desperately needed on his side.
According to insights from Politico, one of DeSantis’ biggest errors has been his anti-corporation stance. The Governor has never been one to shy away from a big business battle—particularly if it allows him to spout anti-LGBTQIA+ or racist rhetoric. In fact, DeSantis’ extreme ideology when it comes to gender and race has also impacted his presidential campaign.
Speaking with Politico, Kathy Wylde—president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a trade organisation that represents Wall Street executives—stated: “He’s totally alienated the business community; congratulations on that. [It’s] his irrational, anti-corporate stance and his extreme policies on gender and race that put public companies who would donate to him in an impossible situation with their employees and their customers.”
Some would also argue that DeSantis simply doesn’t possess the same charisma conservatives are attracted to. The biggest Republican voting demographic, white suburban individuals who predominantly don’t have college degrees, likely found DeSantis awkward, unapproachable, and pretentious.
The Governor spent far too much of his time trying to woo political commentators and ultimately bet his entire campaign on riding on the “anti-woke sentiment,” presumably thinking that this would be enough to secure the numbers. In reality, he had neither the on-stage presence nor the political prowess to truly match up to Trump.
In August 2023, polls indicated that about half of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents (53 per cent) prefer Donald Trump as their 2024 presidential candidate for the Republican Party.
While Trump initially struggled in the polls, his numbers grew primarily due to his ability to appeal to an incredibly large voter base. For a lot of Republicans, Trump has a proven nationwide track record, whereas DeSantis does not. Moreover, Trump is a far more suitable candidate to try and knock Biden out of his seat. For any Republican voter wanting to see Democrats out of the White House, Trump is the better pick, even with so many ongoing legal battles tied to him.
Rick Wilson, a longtime Republican operative and cofounder of the Lincoln Project, told The Guardian: “Trump may not be smart, but he’s got a kind of feral cunning and he recognises that the culture war stuff has run out too far. That’s why he said, oh, you have to have a few exceptions [for abortion].”
Wilson continued: “A guy like DeSantis was on the very bleeding edge of six-week abortion bans and the most punitive approaches to all the culture war things—book banning and everything else—and he thought that was going to get him over the finish line. But when Trump is in the race, he still could never put it together.”