Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended his Republican presidential campaign after a disappointing showing in Iowa's leadoff caucuses. He ended his White House bid on Sunday after failing to meet lofty expectations that he would seriously challenge former President Donald Trump.
Ron DeSantis ran for president for less than nine months before ending his campaign following the Iowa caucuses, and before a second nominating contest in New Hampshire that he was primed to lose to both Donald Trump and Nikki Haley.
But in that time, the DeSantis campaign and its allied super PAC, Never Back Down, spent at least $53 million to ultimately win the vote of 23,420 Iowans. As other outlets have noted, it works out to roughly $2,262 per voter — although not every penny was spent to court Iowans, and DeSantis’ outlay in the final weeks of the campaign won’t be available until the end of the month.
It’s not the most a candidate has wasted on a short-lived presidential campaign. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg spent $1 billion of his own money in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, winning only four delegates in the U.S. territory of American Samoa — an outcome that became the punchline of jokes about billionaires failing spectacularly to buy their way into office. Bloomberg spent at least $13.6 million per delegate in the most expensive presidential primary campaign in history.
DeSantis, however, entered the race with an unprecedented cash advantage for a governor, in the form of millions left over from his most recent statewide campaign in Florida. That money went to Never Back Down, which the super PAC used to build out a “gold standard” ground game operation in Iowa. DeSantis still only came in second in the caucuses with 21% of the vote to Trump’s 51%. He dropped out of the race Sunday, less than a week later, and endorsed Trump, whom he said a majority of GOP voters clearly want to give another chance.
DeSantis wasn’t the only Republican running in 2024 who spent millions to win a few thousand votes. Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy spent $22 million, including more than $15 million of his own money, to win the votes of 8,449 Iowans. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a wealthy one-time software company executive, spent more than $15 million, with $12 million from his own pocket, on a campaign that he abandoned before any votes had even been cast.
Federal Election Commission records only cover spending and receipts through the end of September, so it won’t be clear until the next batch of reports at the end of the month how much any of the candidates spent through the year’s end.
The DeSantis campaign and Never Back Down combined had roughly $150 million to work with. Much of that came in the form of an $82.5 million transfer from the Florida political committee that DeSantis used to run for governor in 2019 and 2023. It’s highly likely that money dried up in the waning days of his presidential campaign, as many of the governor’s donors had already maxed out their contributions while his donor base did not show signs of expanding.
Trump is still winning the 2024 cash contest. His political network brought in $45.5 million and ended the quarter with $37.5 million cash on hand, $36 million of which was available to spend in the primary.
That’s far more than Haley, the only other Republican now challenging Trump for the nomination. Haley, who is running a lean operation so far, raised $11 million across her political committees and ended the third quarter of 2023 with $9 million available to spend on the primary.