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Updated Jan 21, 2024, 3:07pm EST
politics

Inside the pressure campaign ahead of Ron DeSantis dropping out

REUTERS/Reba Saldanha
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The pressure campaign for Ron DeSantis to drop out of the presidential race reached a fever pitch — both publicly and internally — as he prepared his exit. He made it official Sunday afternoon in a post on X, and endorsed Donald Trump.

“Clearly the base is not ready to move past Trump,” said a DeSantis supporter close to his campaign, who noted even his staunchest Florida-based backers wanted him to drop out sooner rather than later. “Iowa was critical for DeSantis and he did everything right in the state, but he couldn’t pull off a win in even one county. It’s bad for America. DeSantis would have been an outstanding president, but unfortunately it is the current state of this primary.”

Bloomberg first reported Sunday that the Florida governor’s team was beginning exit discussions, trying to figure out the best time and place to drop out. While he endorsed Trump immediately in his video, it doesn’t appear that there was coordination with Trump’s team on that announcement.

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Once seen as the conservative darling who could take on Donald Trump, the Florida governor’s supporters have widely recognized the bitter reality over the past few weeks: That it just might not be Desantis’s time. The seeds of doubt among his allies and some donors began months ago, when Nikki Haley began gaining momentum in the race. Even back then, DeSantis began facing quiet pressure to drop out, sources say.

But after a second place finish in Iowa (30 points behind Trump) and seemingly no path to win New Hampshire or South Carolina, the push for him to suspend his campaign reached its height. Publicly, top conservative pundits like Laura Ingraham and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board have called on him to suspend his campaign. Meanwhile, he also faced a barrage of internal pressure, with donors and top Floridians who want him to be viable in 2028 quietly urging his campaign to give up.

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Trump’s team has said they’d welcome DeSantis dropping out — and his endorsement — despite the bitter rivalry between the two over the last year.

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“I think we should welcome Gov. DeSantis and all of his supporters into the warm embrace of MAGA,” Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz told Semafor on Saturday. “He’s got a lot of successful years ahead in Florida. We’ve got to pull together and win this thing. Joe Biden’s the enemy, not each other.”

Trump’s team saw DeSantis’s remaining voters as likely converts — conservatives who disagreed with Haley on foreign policy, and who’d been told by their candidate and conservative media that Haley was a corporate shill.

“The majority of his voters come to us,” Trump campaign manager Chris LaCivita told Semafor. Polling from CNN and the University of New Hampshire released Sunday morning found Trump hitting 50% for the first time, as supporters of Vivek Ramaswamy came over en masse.

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Notable

  • Tim Scott, another Trump rival, endorsed the former president ahead of the New Hampshire primary. Even before his victory in Iowa, the overwhelming majority of House and Senate endorsements were for Trump.
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