The DeSantis Post-Mortem You’ve Been Waiting For

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AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Ron DeSantis has exited the 2024 presidential race so let’s get into it.

DeSantis’ announcement came after a second-place finish in Iowa that simply wasn’t enough to justify him continuing. The race will continue with Donald Trump and Nikki Haley remaining, though the latter is likely to get out after New Hampshire.

I didn’t hide my preference for the Florida governor. I believe and still believe he’s the best conservative politician in the country and that he could have done great things as president. With that said, when did it become clear he was likely going to lose? The answer is around September, and there are specific reasons for that, namely that by the Fall, people are paying attention.

I put down that marker in the Spring of 2023.

September came and the polls were still stagnating after a large climb by Trump following his indictments, with DeSantis settling somewhere between 15-20 percent. This was before Nikki Haley’s “surge” as well (oh, we are going to get there, believe that). At that point, the race had stagnated, and with more and more conservative voices deciding the indictments were their biggest issue, DeSantis faced a roadblock that no other politician had ever had to face. 

The polling separation that occurred on March 27, 2023, the day Alvin Bragg dropped his laughable indictment of Trump in New York, is undeniable. People will talk about “gaffes” and say DeSantis should have done this differently or that differently, but there was no greater factor in his primary loss than the indictments. Nothing else came close.

Could DeSantis have honed his message more early on? Absolutely. Should he have entered the race earlier, perhaps immediately after winning re-election? I’d say that would have helped. But in the end, none of it would have mattered because Republican voters have agency, and they decided the indictments were their top issue. 

When you look at the sharp reverse in polling that occurred, it happened before DeSantis even did any of the stuff people claim cost him the race. So yeah, I could spend another few paragraphs saying that he should have gone harder here or taken a softer touch there, but that’d be splitting hairs. There is no perfect candidate, and DeSantis ran the race he did within the situation he was faced with.

With all that said, that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t have supported him after the deck became so stacked against him. You should think less of anyone who flipped on a dime back to Donald Trump the moment it became politically expedient, and there were a lot of “influencers” who did just that in the Fall of 2023 to keep the clicks and clout coming in. 

Standing for something is a positive character trait, and it ultimately leads to good things, even if they don’t arrive immediately. Don’t let anyone else convince you otherwise. If anyone thinks I’m going to feel shame for supporting the guy who turned Florida into everything conservatives claim they want, they are severely mistaken. I don’t care about online clout, and I don’t rely on politics to support my family. If I think something is right, I’m going to stand by it. Respect that or don’t.

Now, let’s talk about Nikki Haley because I had this to say back in October of 2023, and it turned out to be correct.

Had the Trump skeptics in the party, whatever one may think of them, been smart, they would have rallied around DeSantis as a compromise on their part, made it a two-person race, and delivered him a 40 percentage point performance in Iowa. Had that happened, he’d still be in the race and we’d be in a dogfight. 

Instead, out of sheer hubris, they decided to rally around one of the most unpopular Republicans in the race. They had a chance to promote a proven conservative and they reached for the Bush-era gold. That’s their failure. In that respect, they are getting exactly what they deserve: Donald Trump as the nominee, and I take some solace in that. 

Lastly, we need to talk about the laughable notion that DeSantis “ruined his career” by running against Donald Trump. As I’ve been pointing out for months, despite $50 million being spent against him, DeSantis is still the most popular Republican in the party not named Donald Trump. Lo and behold, guess who is leading the first poll of the 2028 field for the GOP nomination by a sizable margin? Yeah, that would be Ron DeSantis. 

DeSantis took a shot in 2024 because he truly believed he was the best man for the job. I think he made a compelling case to back that up, and that includes his vast record of accomplishments. It didn’t work out this time, and that’s fine. He’s still the best governor in the country, and even the Republican politicians who were going after him a week ago are admitting that again. They didn’t actually believe the attacks they were launching.

It is what it is. Perhaps things will turn out differently next time, and I do think there will be a next time for DeSantis.

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