Ron DeSantis might have better served his political ambitions by sitting the 2024 presidential race out. He could have run for the White House in 2028 with an untarnished record, two successful terms as governor of Florida as a showcase for his executive experience, and perhaps even a cabinet position in a Trump administration under his belt. Instead, he sensed this was his moment because it seemed that Republican voters maybe wanted a Trumpian populist agenda, but without Trump. DeSantis was seen as the great hope for those who objected to mean tweets so much that they were looking for an alternative – someone who was the same, but different. Once the Florida governor suspended his primary campaign on Jan. 21, did he effectively end the contest for the GOP nomination?
Just two days before the New Hampshire Republican primary, DeSantis read a statement that said, in part, “I can’t ask our supporters to volunteer their time and donate their resources if we don’t have a clear path to victory.” He placed second in the Iowa caucuses – which may have been better than expected, if one believed the hype Nikki Haley was enjoying in certain sectors of the media. Still, he trailed Donald Trump by a wide margin, with the former governor of South Carolina hot on his heels.
Ron DeSantis Reckons with the Math
In the Granite State, which holds its first-in-the-nation primaries (Republican and Democrat) on Jan. 23, it is almost certain that Ron DeSantis would have found himself in third place behind Trump and Haley. The next contests for the GOP are Nevada and the US Virgin Islands on Feb. 8 – both caucuses – with 26 and four delegates, respectively, up for grabs. Trump is projected to dominate in Nevada with Ron DeSantis generally not polling above around 22%.
After that, on Feb 24, it’s on to South Carolina with its 50 delegates. Again, the 45th president has a commanding lead in almost every poll, with DeSantis a distant third behind Haley. The Palmetto State has 29 statewide delegates and three for each of its seven congressional districts. It’s winner-take-all in each case. This means Trump is odds-on favorite to win the 29 and he’ll likely split the remaining 21 with Haley.
Thus, it is entirely possible that Ron DeSantis would have found himself with no more than about 18 delegates going into the Feb. 27 Michigan primary, where he is also polling far behind both Trump and Nikki Haley. At that point – before Michiganders vote – Trump is likely to have picked up more than 80 delegates in total – perhaps even close to 100.
Just about every poll shows Trump handily winning the delegate-rich states of California, Texas, North Carolina and even DeSantis’ home state of Florida. The man once considered to be Trump’s leading rival is correct; he clearly did not have a path to victory.
For the never-Trumpers or never-again-Trumpers among the Republican voting base, Nikki Haley remains the last hope. But is there room in the modern GOP for an establishment candidate with neoconservative leanings? If she acquits herself well in her home state, then perhaps Haley remains in the race until Super Tuesday on March 5. Does it really matter, though? It seems logical to assume that Trump will benefit more than Haley from the withdrawal of Ron DeSantis. After all, Trump and DeSantis are, ideologically, much closer than DeSantis and Haley. Also, the Florida governor wasted no time in throwing his support behind the former president. It may not have ended the way he wanted, but Ron DeSantis might well have ended the Republican primaries for everyone.