WASHINGTON – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who was once the leading Republican rival to Donald Trump, ended his election campaign on Jan 21 and threw his support behind the former president.
Mr DeSantis’ withdrawal, after months of weakening support, leaves only low-polling Nikki Haley standing between Trump and the nomination as the Republican Party’s candidate for the US presidential election in November.
In a video message, Mr DeSantis said that following his second place finish last week in the Iowa caucuses he could not “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.”
The decision came less than two days before the New Hampshire primary, where polls showed him far behind front-runner Trump and former UN ambassador Ms Haley.
“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” Mr DeSantis said, noting he has had differences with the former president, notably over the coronavirus pandemic.
“He has my endorsement because we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear or (a) repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”
Trump stormed to victory in Iowa last Jan 16, with 51 per cent of Republican voters choosing the twice-impeached former president over Mr DeSantis, who gained only 21 per cent, and Haley at 19 per cent.
No candidate has ever lost the race after claiming the first two states, and Trump would almost certainly declare the Republican nomination over with a win in New Hampshire.
‘One fella and one lady’
Many Republicans had pinned their hopes on Mr DeSantis, who at just 45 was embraced by some as a rising star of right.
But his candidacy, announced at the end of May, struggled to establish itself as a threat to Trump, 77.
Mr DeSantis, a former naval officer, was elected in 2018 as governor in Florida after receiving the valuable endorsement of Trump.
Since then, he often distanced himself from Trump and gained notoriety for a series of hard-right stances on education, immigration and LGBTQ issues.
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