Updated Jan 21, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Ron DeSantis exits presidential race, endorses Trump

Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to guests during a campaign rally at the Thunderdome on December 02, 2023 in Newton, Iowa

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to guests during a campaign rally at the Thunderdome on Dec 2 in Newton, Iowa. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ended his 2024 presidential campaign Sunday and endorsed former President Trump.

Why it matters: DeSantis entered the 2024 campaign widely viewed as Trump's most formidable opponent, but early missteps and strategic errors hampered his effort.

  • DeSantis' announcement will give Trump an added boost ahead of the New Hampshire contest where he is looking to effectively end the GOP primary with a large win over former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.
  • DeSantis campaigned aggressively in Iowa, but came in second behind Trump by about 30 percentage points.

Driving the news: In a straight-to-camera 4-minute video message on X, DeSantis said that following his second-place finish in Iowa: "It is clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance."

  • "While I have had disagreements with Donald Trump ... Trump is superior to the current incumbent, Joe Biden. That is clear. "

DeSantis also jabbed Haley on his way of the race, saying that Trump "has my endorsement because we can't go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear--a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents."

  • After hearing about his exit, Haley told voters in New Hampshire that "we wish him well. Having said that, it's now one fella and one lady left."
  • "We're not a country of coronations," Haley also said in a statement on Sunday.
  • "Voters deserve a say in whether we go down the road of Trump and Biden again, or we go down a new conservative road."

What they're saying: The Trump campaign said in a statement on Sunday that the former president is "honored" by DeSantis' endorsement.

  • "It is now time for all Republicans to rally behind President Trump to defeat Crooked Joe Biden and end his disastrous presidency," the campaign said.
  • The Trump campaign also again took aim at Haley as the "candidate of the globalists and Democrats."

The big picture: DeSantis launched his presidential campaign in May, but he had been laying the groundwork before then, highlighting his legislative accomplishments in Florida that related to his "anti-woke" agenda.

  • He cruised to re-election as governor in 2022, when many other Republican candidates underperformed expectations, which fueled the speculation that he was ready to take on Trump.
  • The Murdoch-owned New York Post put him on the cover with the headline: "DeFUTURE."
  • DeSantis' pitch to voters was that the Sunshine State — which resisted the federal government's Covid mandates and passed a slew of conservative legislation including restrictions on abortion rights and LGBTQ people — could be a model for the rest of the country.

DeSantis' bumpy campaign launch — which took place on a glitchy Twitter Spaces event — set the tone for the early months of his campaign, which was marred by campaign shakeups, tensions with an affiliated Super PAC, and a downward slide in the polls.

Go deeper: Head of DeSantis PAC resigns as internal tensions explode

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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