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DeSantis drops out and endorses Trump after losing to him by 30 points

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended his Republican presidential campaign Sunday just before the New Hampshire primary and endorsed Donald Trump, ending a White House bid that failed to meet expectations that he would emerge as a serious challenger to the former president.

“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” he said in a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary comes Tuesday.

DeSantis derided former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, long his closest rival for second place in the primary race, saying Republicans “can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”

The ambitious big-state governor entered the 2024 presidential contest with major advantages in his quest to take on Trump, and early primary polls suggested DeSantis was in a strong position to do just that. He and his allies amassed a political fortune well in excess of $100 million, and he boasted a significant legislative record on issues important to many conservatives, like abortion and the teaching of race and gender issues in schools.

Such advantages did not survive the reality of presidential politics in 2024. From a high-profile announcement that was plagued by technical glitches to constant upheavals to his staff and campaign strategy, DeSantis struggled to find his footing in the primary. He lost the Iowa caucuses — which he had vowed to win — by 30 percentage points to Trump.

And now, DeSantis’ political future is in question after suspending his presidential bid after just one voting contest. The 45-year-old is term limited as Florida governor.

DeSantis was widely expected to be a serious Trump challenger. Acknowledging the threat, Trump went after the Florida governor viciously in the months leading up to DeSantis’ May announcement and continued to pound him on the campaign trail, on social media and in paid advertising in the months that followed.

Yet many of DeSantis’ problems may have been his own doing.

Fueled by his dominant Florida reelection in 2022, DeSantis sidestepped tradition by announcing his presidential campaign on X, in a conversation on the social media site with CEO Elon Musk. The site failed repeatedly during the conversation, making it all but impossible to hear his opening remarks as a presidential candidate.

In the subsequent weeks and months, DeSantis struggled to connect with voters on a personal level under the unforgiving bright lights of the presidential stage.

He irked some New Hampshire Republican officials in his campaign’s inaugural visit to New Hampshire by declining to take questions from voters, as is tradition in the state. And later, uncomfortable interactions with voters in other states were caught on camera as well.

More serious financial challenges emerged over the summer.

By the end of July, DeSantis had laid off nearly 40 employees in a move designed to cut roughly one-third of his campaign payroll. The cuts came shortly after public filings revealed that he was burning through his substantial campaign coffers at an unsustainable rate.

Some people looking for a Trump alternative backed Haley, the former diplomat and South Carolina governor who gained popularity among many Republican donors, independent voters and the so-called Never Trump crowd.

DeSantis and Haley frequently attacked each other in debates and in advertising, often more directly than they went after Trump.

As internal financial concerns mounted, DeSantis turned aggressively to an allied super PAC to handle basic campaign functions such as organizing campaign events, advertising and an expansive door-knocking operation.

Federal law does not allow campaigns to coordinate directly with super PACs. In December, a nonpartisan government watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, citing reporting by The Associated Press and others, alleging that the degree of coordination and communication between DeSantis’ campaign and the Never Back Down super PAC crossed a legal line.

DeSantis denied any wrongdoing and called the complaint “a farce.”

Still, the steady stream of negative developments leading up to the opening primary contests undermined the confidence of DeSantis’ donor network, which was supposed to be a major strength, and would-be supporters at the ballot box. As his polling numbers stagnated, DeSantis and his allies pulled back on their multistate strategy and focused virtually all of his resources on Iowa’s opening caucuses.

After leaving the 2024 presidential contest, DeSantis now refocuses his attention to the rest of his second and final term as Florida’s governor, which ends in January 2027.

Editor’s note: This story and headline have been updated to include DeSantis’ endorsement of Trump, as well as information about the decline of DeSantis’ campaign.

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