MANCHESTER, N.H. (NBC News) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, once seen as the most formidable opponent to Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary, suspended his race Sunday and endorsed the former president.
The move comes two days before the New Hampshire primary.
DeSantis made the announcement in a video on X — the same social media platform where he did the glitchy rollout of his White House bid.
“Now, following our second-place finish in Iowa, we’ve prayed and deliberated on the way forward,” he said. “If there was anything I could do to produce a favorable outcome, more campaign stops, more interviews, I would do it. But I can’t ask our supporters to volunteer their time and donate their resources. We don’t have a clear path to victory. Accordingly, I am today suspending my campaign.”
“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” he said, adding, “He has my endorsement because we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, or repackage formed of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”
DeSantis sought to position himself as an alternative to Trump, trying to cast himself as a politically successful heir to the MAGA movement and its preferred policies without Trump’s baggage. But in his bid to court Trump’s supporters, DeSantis was slow to meaningfully criticize the former president and was unable to peel away enough of his support. DeSantis’ embrace of hard-right policies also led moderate Republicans and independents to look elsewhere in their search for a candidate to steer the GOP in a different direction than Trump.
Ultimately, DeSantis was only able to notch a distant second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
DeSantis entered the Republican presidential race with an impressive political operation and widespread popularity in the party after achieving a blowout 2022 re-election win in Florida, which had for decades been one of the most tightly divided states in the nation.
But the momentum DeSantis had at the start quickly dissipated after he made his candidacy official, amid relentless attacks from the Trump machine as well as his own missteps. The pro-Trump super PAC, MAGA Inc., spent over $10 million attacking DeSantis before he even announced his candidacy for president, according to campaign finance records.
The early ad campaign slashed at the Florida governor with TV spots criticizing votes he took in Congress on Social Security, Medicare and taxes, and it didn’t let up. MAGA Inc. spent more than $23 million on anti-DeSantis advertising, campaign finance records show — and the super PAC backing former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley spent even more hitting DeSantis as they began clashing in Iowa in the fall.
When DeSantis officially launched his White House bid in May, a glitchy Twitter Spaces event with Elon Musk became emblematic of a campaign that was often overshadowed by infighting, financial troubles, and a complicated partnership with the super PAC Never Back Down.
At the core of DeSantis’ campaign message was a pitch to bring his Florida blueprint to the nation. The governor pledged to dismantle the federal government’s “administrative state,” finish the southern border wall,and limit Chinese influence in the United States and abroad.
The firebrand conservative issues that became fixtures of his administration in Florida found their way to the campaign, too. He weaved his signature war on “woke” through several policy proposals, including ending diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in the federal government, barring transgender service members from the military, and banning gender-affirming medical care for minors.
As one of the only sitting executives in the race, DeSantis at times flexed the power of his office in Tallahassee in step with his campaign rhetoric. After the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, DeSantis mobilized the Florida Department of Emergency Management to organize evacuation flights as the war raged, with those efforts extracting nearly 700 American citizens from the Middle East.
Even before launching his White House bid, DeSantis sent Florida law enforcement and National Guard members to the southern border to support the efforts of Texas officials there. (The state’s governor, Greg Abbott, ultimately endorsed Trump.)