In his dreams, Ron DeSantis is the savior for Republicans who know Donald Trump will lose a general election as their party’s nominee. In reality, DeSantis proved to be an unlikable and unrelatable candidate, with extreme positions on nearly every issue from immigration to abortion, who wasn’t ready for the bright lights of a presidential campaign.
Instead of conceding their flawed candidate ran a mismanaged campaign brought down by poor strategy, luxury spending, and egotistical in-fighting. Team DeSantis resorted to a Trump-like tactic blaming the “media” and claiming “election interference.”
“We know that Trump made it popular to launch baseless conspiracy theories and work up an angry mob to overturn an election loss, but Team DeSantis should know by now, after going all-in on Iowa and still losing by 30 points, that they can’t out–Trump Donald Trump in this Republican Party,” said American Bridge 21st Century Communications Director of Presidential Campaigns Brandon Weathersby. “Ron DeSantis was supposed to be the anti-Trump savior, but his campaign was in free fall ever since its glitchy social media rollout on day one. Team DeSantis relying on election interference conspiracies is just as delusional as thinking waging culture wars with Disney and signing an extreme abortion ban would help their candidate win the Republican nomination.”
Since his botched campaign announcement, not a single public poll ever showed DeSantis gaining ground on Trump in the state. In the last Des Moines Register poll, DeSantis slid down three points into projected third place.
After entering the race as the candidate best positioned to beat Trump for the Republican nomination, DeSantis narrowly avoided a late single-digit upset. Months of poor spending, embarrassing headlines, high-profile deflections, and toxic in-fighting sank the chances of the DeSantis campaign from its early days:
- Poor candidate quality and poor headlines defined DeSantis’ campaign.
- DeSantis’ campaign announcement on Twitter Spaces was repeatedly interrupted by breaks in the audio feed, dropped connections, and other technical glitches.
- DeSantis was defined early as an unskilled politician no matter what the situation: a car show in Iowa, a diner in New Hampshire, interacting with small children, or ”enjoying” a beer.
- DeSantis faced staff turmoil from its early days, turning over campaign operatives and replacing his campaign manager.
Pro-DeSantis super PACs endured public in-fighting, ultimately leading to a splintering of DeSantis factions.
- DeSantis lost his largest donor, billionaire Ken Griffin, who cited DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban and fights with Disney as reasons for withdrawing support.
- Florida’s culture war laws came to define DeSantis’ domestic policy imagination. To date, DeSantis has spent $17 million in taxpayer money defending his culture war laws in court.
- DeSantis struggled to explain his time as a Navy lawyer and whether or not he oversaw forced feedings or other forms of torture at Guantanamo Bay.
- DeSantis flip-flopped on issues like his COVID-19 pandemic response, military aid for Ukraine, and federal hurricane relief aid.
- Pro-DeSantis group spending and strategy did not move the needle.
Published: Jan 16, 2024
Last Modified: Jan 18, 2024