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DeSantis Backs Down: Florida’s governor ends his presidential campaign

Ron DeSantis is backing down — and getting behind former President Donald Trump.

The Florida governor, who bet everything on the Iowa caucuses and lost, ended his 2024 presidential campaign on Sunday, less than 48 hours before the New Hampshire primary, a contest that he had virtually no chance of winning.

In a video posted online just two hours before a scheduled campaign stop in Manchester, DeSantis acknowledged that he had no path forward in the race for the 2024 Republican nomination for president.

“If there was anything I could do to produce a favorable outcome — more campaign stops, more interviews — I would do it,” DeSantis said. “But I can’t ask our supporters to volunteer their time and donate their resources if we don’t have a clear path to victory. Accordingly, I am today suspending my campaign.”

Getting behind Trump

DeSantis’ decision to drop out of the presidential contest left the primary a two-candidate race between Trump and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. DeSantis, in his video, said he was endorsing Trump — releasing people who’d previously backed the governor to announce their support for the former president.

Florida lawmakers, including state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, House Speaker Paul Renner and House Speaker Designate Daniel Perez, were among those who threw their endorsements behind Trump.

“I am proud to endorse Donald J. Trump to be the next President of the United States,” Perez, R-Miami, said in a statement. “Floridians have delivered for President Trump twice before, and we will work nonstop to do so again this November.”

Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who’d previously endorsed Trump, said on the social media site X that Republicans were “one step closer to getting everyone focused on saving our country by helping Trump beat Biden.”

It was a swift about-face for DeSantis, who had ramped up his attacks on Trump in recent weeks. In his closing pitch to voters in Iowa, he said that, with Trump, “you can be the most worthless Republican in America, but if you kiss the ring, he’ll say you’re wonderful.”

DeSantis explained his reversal, saying in his video announcement that while he has had “disagreements” with the former president, Trump is “superior to the current incumbent Joe Biden.”

Trump welcomed DeSantis’ endorsement on Sunday, signaling that he is willing to put their rivalry behind them.

“With only a few days left until President Donald J. Trump’s victory in New Hampshire, we are honored by the endorsement from Governor Ron DeSantis and so many other former presidential candidates,” Trump’s campaign said in a statement. “It is now time for all Republicans to rally behind President Trump to defeat Crooked Joe Biden and end his disastrous presidency.”

When a reporter asked Sunday how DeSantis could get back in Trump’s “good graces,” the former president’s response was short: “We’ll see.”

Back to Florida

With his White House campaign now behind him, and the state’s legislative session underway, the governor will return to Florida to finish out the final three years of his last term in the governor’s mansion. His agenda isn’t entirely clear; he spent his time on the campaign trail saying he’d already accomplished everything he’d promised to do as governor.

“He’s going to settle back into the governor’s mansion and act like it’s business as usual; like nothing happened,” said Rick Wilson, a former Republican consultant and a co-founder of the anti-Trump group, the Lincoln Project. “He won’t admit he failed.”

READ MORE: DeSantis offered to ‘Make America Florida.’ Voters in Iowa and N.H. shrugged

DeSantis had insisted all week after his second-place Iowa finish that he would not drop out, and that he had a shot to win the nomination.

“As long as I’m in the hunt, that tells me that I’m seeing a pathway,” he told reporters Friday outside an ice arena at Saint Anselm College. “The minute I don’t, I’m not just going to do this for my health.”

But there were signs before the Sunday announcement that DeSantis’ campaign was nearing the end of the line.

DeSantis’ campaign appeared directionless as Tuesday’s primary approached. He bounced back and forth between New Hampshire and South Carolina. Then he canceled two planned TV appearances on Sunday morning after saying just days earlier that he regretted not engaging with mainstream media more readily. His campaign also scheduled a last-minute stop in New Hampshire on Sunday, explaining that he’d canceled the TV interviews because he had a scheduling conflict.

He never made it to Manchester.

Herald/Times Staff Writer Ana Ceballos contributed to this report.