DeSantis The Disaster
His presidential campaign was doomed from the start
On Sunday, January 21st, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis officially suspended his campaign for president and endorsed Trump in his bid to recapture the White House. This came after a distant, disappointing second place finish in last Monday’s Iowa Republican Caucus.
Netting a result of only 21.2%, DeSantis barely outperformed former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in the contest while Trump dominated statewide with 51% of the vote. DeSantis placed all of his chips in the Hawkeye State, claiming to have accomplished “The Full Grassley" by visiting all 99 counties in Iowa.
Just one year ago, he was polling competitively with the former president. At his peak of January 23rd of last year, FiveThirtyEight showed that DeSantis was on average only 7.7% behind Trump nationally. With Trump under that magic 50% number, DeSantis saw an opening. And yet by the time he dropped out, DeSantis would’ve been lucky to poll ahead of Haley with an abysmal 11.1% national polling average.
(data graph provided by FiveThirtyEight)
So what the hell happened?
The answer is two-pronged and simple.
Trump got indicted.
DeSantis is deeply unlikeable.
March 30th, 2023: A Manhattan grand jury announces an indictment against Trump, accusing the former president of business fraud. This was a game-changer in the bubbling GOP presidential primary. Unfortunately for DeSantis, it wasn’t in the way he would’ve hoped for. Not even an official challenger to Trump, yet, DeSantis jumped to defend him.
“The law has been weaponized for political purposes,” announced DeSantis at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference.
Ultimately, the governor knew he couldn’t badmouth Trump on these indictments - not even when he made his run official. Almost nobody who still actively seeks a continued career within the GOP has the courage to do so without fear of invoking the wrath of his MAGA machine. It’s certainly killed the political careers of many in the GOP (see: Liz Cheney).
He secretly hoped that GOP voters would turn on the President - that they could do all the dirty work for him. They didn’t. In fact, they rallied around the president.
In just 11 days, Trump shot up an average of 7.3% in the polls according to FiveThirtyEight. From there, his support steadily climbed until reaching its current peak of 66.2%. DeSantis acknowledges this sore spot, too.
“If I could have one thing change, I wish Trump hadn’t been indicted on any of this stuff,” said DeSantis in a December 2023 interview. He continued to voice his frustration, arguing that the indictments “just crowded out, I think, so much other stuff and it sucked out all the oxygen.”
However, DeSantis was already starting to lose ground in polling even before these indictments. The former president had opened up a 19.5% lead against DeSantis the day before they were announced. It’s obvious they weren’t the only things that screwed DeSantis over.
What mainly screwed DeSantis over was… DeSantis.
In 2022, DeSantis was on top of the world. Amid a disappointing midterm election cycle for the Republican Party, Florida stood out as a state that truly experienced this so-called “red wave.” At the top of the ticket was DeSantis, cruised to reelection in a 19.4% victory against former governor Charlie Crist. Pundits were already pushing him as the “future of the Republican Party” while voters called Trump the elections’ “biggest loser.”
But did nationwide voters really know DeSantis?
Sure, they saw the headlines. They saw him winning. They saw the fawning media coverage. But they didn’t see presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. And he is a disaster.
His campaign got off to a rocky start from the moment he announced. Deciding to launch through a Twitter Space hosted by owner Elon Musk, the livestream repeatedly glitched and crashed throughout its painful hour tenure. Thinking even beyond the technological troubles (which didn’t shock me in the slightest), it just shows how out of touch DeSantis is with the average voter to think that Twitter was the best place to launch a campaign to be President of the United States.
And I thought that *I* was chronically online.
This disconnect extended toward his campaign staff as well. The campaign faced controversy as a speechwriter for the campaign shared a video from the “@desantiscams” Twitter account that displayed in a positive manner DeSantis standing in front of a Nazi Sonnenrad. Another scandal erupted when the campaign posted a video celebrating the end of Pride Month that even a former member of Trump’s administration called “homophobic.”
This man could not hire the right people. Just look at this screengrab of his presidential campaign Wikipedia page.
It reads like a joke. How many times can you have a campaign reset before you realize that it might be time to call it quits?
Ultimately, the final nail in the coffin for DeSantis was his personality. I sincerely believe that you would get more personality out of a piece of driftwood with a face painted on it. Wait… we already have!
(A screengrab from the incredible animated TV series, Ed, Edd, n Eddy)
Plank for President!
In all seriousness, I don’t think there was a candidate more wooden and deeply unlikeable than Ron DeSantis in any of those primary debates. There’s just video clip after video clip of DeSantis struggling to barely even be human! Even his inability to properly smile after answering a debate question made for viral meme fodder.
DeSantis completely misread his national appeal with a shortsighted presidential bid and in particular, misread GOP primary voters. He simply was not prepared for a national audience or understood how to properly capture the populist rhetoric that’s made Trump such a dominant force within the party.
It didn’t matter how much DeSantis tried to copy Trump’s mannerisms. He’s not Trump and never will be. Voters did not care about his “war on the woke” and every opportunity for him to be somewhat relatable just blew up in his face.
Trump’s indictments certainly didn’t help the Florida governor’s presidential odds, but his main problem was the fact that the more voters got to know DeSantis, the less they wanted him.
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