In November 2022 – after “Republicans” failed miserably to capitalize on what should have been a slam dunk mid-term election cycle – I penned a column entitled ‘Donald Trump versus DeFuture.’ At the time, the Republican electorate was souring on former U.S. president Donald Trump – and seeking an alternative to lead them into the 2024 elections.
Their first choice? Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
In the 2022 election that left the GOP wondering where its wave went, DeSantis was the big wave surfer – sweeping to a landslide reelection win in Florida. The GOP took note. And not just of DeSantis’ big win, but the fact he earned it in a swing state by running hard to the right – governing as a rare conservative who kept his campaign promises.
They showed they were taking note, too. A year ago today – as the 2024 campaigns were coalescing – DeSantis was polling within single digits of Trump nationally, according to survey averages from FiveThirtyEight.
Trump had the support of 43.7 percent of the GOP electorate on this day in 2023, according to those averages – while DeSantis was backed by 34.9 percent. That was a spread of only 8.8 percentage points, people.
Today? Trump is supported by 66.2 percent of GOP primary voters nationally – putting him nearly 54 percentage points ahead of his nearest competitor.
So … what happened? How did the wheels fall off DeSantis once-promising presidential bid?
Two key things led to the DeSantis collapse … which began last spring and continued inexorably through the summer, fall and winter.
First, the moment it became clear DeSantis was a viable GOP alternative to Trump, he became everyone’s target – most notable the former president’s. Trump attacked him viciously. Other Republican presidential candidates assailed him with equal fervor as they sought to become the “alternative.” Democrats tore into him for fear he might beat Trump. The media lambasted him for the same reason.
DeSantis was pilloried on all fronts – MAGA, GOP establishment, progressive and the press – and to say he wasn’t up for the incoming was obviously an understatement.
But perhaps a better question is this: Would any candidate have been able to survive such a complete and total encirclement? Even if they were to assiduously avoid any missteps, such full-spectrum partisan/ ideological opposition would have been virtually impossible to overcome.
But the forces arrayed against DeSantis were not his undoing. Nor, as it happens, was his lack of “rizz” or his campaign’s lack of discipline. Sure, people will write about DeSantis’ botched social media announcement, his personality deficit disorder or the myriad stumbles, fumbles and bumbles his campaign made over the course of the past year.
None of that is why he lost, though.
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DeSantis’ fate was sealed when the far left made its move against Trump legally – indicting him for allegedly paying hush money to his mistresses, allegedly mishandling classified information and allegedly attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The indictments – and Trump’s successful framing of them as the deep state’s weaponization of “justice” for political ends – galvanized the GOP base and solidified his support within the party. Trump surged in the polls and hasn’t looked back since. His huge win in early-voting Iowa – and his recent momentum over Nikki Haley in New Hampshire and South Carolina – have him poised to walk away with the Republican nomination.
Moderates in swing states have also rallied to Trump’s banner – at least in a rematch against U.S. president Joe Biden.
DeSantis has now acknowledged the political realities confronting him … and acted accordingly.
“I am today suspending my campaign,” DeSantis said in a Sunday afternoon video posted to his social media accounts, adding “I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee and I will honor that pledge.”
“With only a few days left until President Donald J. Trump’s victory in New Hampshire, we are honored by the endorsement from Governor Ron DeSantis and so many other former presidential candidates,” a statement from the former president’s campaign noted. “It is now time for all Republicans to rally behind President Trump to defeat Crooked Joe Biden and end his disastrous presidency.”
The Trump statement took a shot at Haley, who is now the only Republican still running against the presumed GOP nominee.
“Nikki Haley is the candidate of the globalists and Democrats who will do everything to stop the America First movement,” the statement continued, accusing Haley of representing “the views of Democrats more than the views of Republicans.”
“It’s time to choose wisely,” the statement concluded.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
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