Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has ended his Republican United States presidential campaign just before the New Hampshire primary and endorsed Donald Trump, after failing to emerge as a serious challenger for the White House against the 77-year-old former president.
DeSantis’s decision comes less than two days before the New Hampshire primary, in which polls showed him far behind frontrunner Trump and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.
“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” the 45-year-old said in a video posted on X on Sunday.
In the video, DeSantis went on to attack Haley, long his closest rival for second place in the primary race, saying Republicans “can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents”.
At a Sunday evening rally in Rochester, New Hampshire, Trump set aside months of criticism and mockery of DeSantis to praise the governor, saying he was looking forward to working together to defeat President Joe Biden, the probable Democratic nominee.
“I just want to thank Ron and congratulate him on doing a very good job,” Trump said at the outset of his remarks. “He was very gracious, and he endorsed me. I appreciate that, and I also look forward to working with Ron.” Trump described DeSantis as “a really terrific person”.
Trump accused Haley of forming an “unholy alliance” with liberals, never-Trumpers and so-called RINOs, or Republicans in Name Only, to try and win the New Hampshire primary.
When DeSantis entered the 2024 presidential contest, early primary polls suggested he was in a strong position to beat Trump, who faces multiple court cases including for interference in the 2020 presidential election.
The Florida governor built a campaign war chest well in excess of $100m supported by a significant legislative record on issues important to many conservatives such as abortion and the teaching of race and gender issues in schools.
But he failed to make headway and connect with voters.
From a high-profile announcement on X that was plagued by technical glitches to constant upheavals in his staff and campaign strategy, DeSantis struggled to find his footing in the primary. He lost the Iowa caucuses – which he had vowed to win – by 30 percentage points to Trump, just ahead of Haley.
DeSantis and Haley frequently attacked each other in debates and in advertising, often more directly than they did Trump. (AlJazeera)