Ron DeSantis dropped out of the 2024 race on Sunday.
At one time, it would have been considered an unexpected ending for a promising candidate.
Now, DeSantis will go in history as one of the worst candidates in recent memory.
Turns out, Mickey Mouse is stronger than you thought.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ended his presidential campaign on Sunday, succumbing to the final realization of defeat in a candidacy that once held such promise.
The epitaph of his campaign is and will be intensely debated. Perhaps, any politician trying to be a replica of Trump when the original was readily available was doomed to fail.
And yet, it doesn't explain the glitchy rollout. The weird, definitely too online videos. And how the governor of one of America's largest states, just seemed well, odd on the campaign trail. It's true that as DeSantis himself complained, Trump's unprecedented criminal indictments upended the race. Still, it seemed like one man in America who could have humbled Trump just couldn't stop tripping over himself.
DeSantis was one of the most intimidating candidates to enter the presidential arena in ages
It's worth remembering as pundits, foes, and anyone else kick the Florida man while he's down that they remember DeSantis once cut a much different figure. After all, there's a reason the Biden White House once made it a point to tangle with him regularly.
DeSantis cut his teeth after narrowly winning a general election over then-Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a candidate who was virtually anointed as the future of the Democratic Party but who now looks at best like a deeply flawed challenger. And yes, it was then-President Donald Trump whose endorsement powered DeSantis to that very general election in the first place.
You know how the story goes. DeSantis pivoted away from his early governorship to becoming a pandemic-era culture warrior willing to take on Trump or anyone else who stands his way. He later added Disney, one of his state's largest employers, to his enemy list. After pundits point out this a bold strategy for a historic swing state, DeSantis pulls off a historic reelection rout.
Of course, it didn't last.
His collapse is among the most significant ever in Republican politics.
It might be our fault too, more specifically the media. To juice early interest in the presidential race, the national media often declares frontrunners that age more poorly than a mid-2000s sitcom: just ask Rudy Giuliani, Scott Walker, and Kamala Harris (briefly). Some, namely Joe Biden, campaign long enough to go from frontrunner to also-ran back to winning the race again. But for the rest, they drop out before the Iowa caucuses or live on long enough to be humbled by roughly a couple hundred thousand Americans.
While DeSantis may often be compared to former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the Floridian's disappointing performance might be so bad that he has now risen close to the level occupied by Giuliani. As America's (former) Mayor, Giuliani dominated early polling in the 2008 Republican primaries. But Giuliani was ultimately doomed by cultural issues (evangelical conservatives couldn't stomach his then-pro-choice views) and his curious decision to skip the early states in favor of focusing on the delegate battle. He ultimately staked his campaign on Florida. After finishing third, he quickly dropped out.
Walker's failed candidacy is similar in that the Wisconsin Republican expanded his operation quickly to match the early hype for his bid. Just like DeSantis, Walker ended up being doomed by the sheer rate at which his campaign burned through contributions.
Maybe there's a different ending in another multiverse. But in this reality, a week ago DeSantis lashed out at "worthless" Republicans who back Trump.
"You can be the most worthless Republican in America, but if you kiss the ring, he'll say: 'You're wonderful," DeSantis told Iowans just a day before he finished the caucuses without carrying a single county.
DeSantis can only hope he'll return to a wonderful world as Florida's governor. It sure won't be Disney's.
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