Ron DeSantis is down but is he out?

Stuck between a dominant Donald Trump and a surging Nikki Haley, the man once seen as the GOP's best hope for 2024 scrambles to salvage a struggling campaign

Photo composite of Ron DeSantis and arrows pointing up and down
The DeSantis campaign is in "full-on survival mode" at best, and living in a "fantasy land" at worst
(Image credit: Illustrated / Getty Images)

In the aftermath of the 2022 midterms, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) seemed like an inevitable political juggernaut, having engineered the sole bright spot for Republicans in an otherwise underwhelming electoral cycle. With his "Make America Florida" agenda of culture war posturing and combative social conservatism, DeSantis had positioned himself in the somewhat paradoxical role of both heir apparent to former President Donald Trump's MAGA movement, as well as a savior of sorts for the "never Trump" wing of the GOP which had grown sick of the former president's stranglehold on their party. That Trump himself soon began sniping at "Ron DeSanctimonious" amid polling that showed the Florida governor trouncing the former president in a hypothetical primary was proof enough that DeSantis' star was firmly on the rise. 

With the 2024 presidential primary race now officially underway, DeSantis' once-bright star is decidedly duller than it once was. After his campaign focused almost exclusively on this week's Iowa caucuses, DeSantis' far distant second-place finish behind Trump coupled with former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley's particularly strong third-place showing signaled to many that the governor's road to the White House was nearing a dead end. DeSantis, however, has not only vowed to stay in the race, but is already looking past the upcoming New Hampshire primary to the "important state" of South Carolina, and Nevada after that, predicting to reporters this week that Haley is "just not going to win any delegates" there. But is DeSantis' political optimism warranted, or is he simply simply delaying the inevitable? 

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Rafi Schwartz, The Week US

Rafi Schwartz has worked as a politics writer at The Week since 2022, where he covers elections, Congress and the White House. He was previously a contributing writer with Mic focusing largely on politics, a senior writer with Splinter News, a staff writer for Fusion's news lab, and the managing editor of Heeb Magazine, a Jewish life and culture publication. Rafi's work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GOOD and The Forward, among others.