Ron DeSantis Was Rejected by Iowa Voters, and Then Again By His GOP Rivals

As Ron DeSantis takes questions from voters – the vast majority of whom have made clear they have no intention of sending him to the White House – on CNN tonight, DNC National Press Secretary Sarafina Chitika released the following statement: 

“Ron DeSantis spent months in Iowa throwing millions of dollars in the trash, but he could never overcome his greatest obstacle: himself. After predicting he would win the Iowa caucus, he didn’t even come close, and today lost one of his last chances at a debate after his rivals decided to stand him up. With his campaign spiraling, DeSantis is desperately trying to revive his chances with the voters – even as the vast majority of them continue to make it clear they have no intention of sending him to the White House. Once again, DeSantis is setting himself up to fail just as badly as he’s already failed Floridians.”

DeSantis insisted in the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucus that he would win the contest. 

DeSantis: “We’re going to win the caucus… We’re going to win Iowa. I think it’s going to help propel us to the nomination.”

DeSantis: “We’re going to win here in Iowa. We have the organization in place… I think it’ll be very clarifying in terms of who is the real deal and who’s not.”

DeSantis: “We’re in it to win it. I mean, you know, we’re doing the math. We built the organization. You don’t do 30+ thousand caucus commitments unless you’re in it to win it.”

DeSantis embarrassingly fell short of his own expectations in Iowa.

Time: “In Iowa, Ron DeSantis Takes His Loss as a Win”

New York Times: “[DeSantis’s] distant second-place finish had all the feelings of a disaster, given how much time and money he invested in the state, and it calls into question his ability to stay in the nominating contest, with his campaign cash running low and tough tests ahead in New Hampshire and South Carolina.”

Not even DeSantis’s own 2024 Republican rivals are taking him seriously anymore.

Shelby Talcott, Semafor: “New: ABC News/WMUR-TV have cancelled its New Hampshire primary debate after both Haley and Trump declined to take the stage.”

DeSantis gave the bulk of his pre-campaign war chest to super PAC Never Back Down, which planned to spend $100 million in an effort to build a massive ground game.

New York Times: “How DeSantis’s Ambitious, Costly Ground Game Has Sputtered”

“This spring, the main super PAC backing Mr. DeSantis laid out a costly organizing operation, including an enormous voter-outreach push with an army of trained, paid door-knockers, that would try to reach every potential DeSantis voter multiple times in early-nominating states. Seven months later, after tens of millions of dollars spent and hundreds of thousands of doors knocked, one of the most expensive ground games in modern political history shows little sign of creating the momentum it had hoped to achieve.”

Washington Post: “DeSantis allies set up a school to train a $100 million door-knocking army”

NBC News: “In total, DeSantis’ backers plan to spend $100 million on this ground game spread over 18 states, laying the groundwork for the Florida governor to pick off delegates and win key battlegrounds.”

CNN: “DeSantis’ former state political committee transfers $82.5 million to allied super PAC”

DeSantis’s ground operation and his campaign went all in on Iowa.

Des Moines Register: “Fueled by $82.5 million that DeSantis had raised for his reelection bid and transferred over from a state committee, the Never Back Down super PAC flooded Iowa with door knockers as part of the most robust ground game mounted by any candidate. DeSantis also spent much of the $35 million he raised in his campaign account in Iowa.”

NBC News: “Ron DeSantis’ big bet on door-knocking put to the test in Iowa”

“With Iowa viewed as a make-or-break state for DeSantis, his allies have pulled resources from elsewhere to focus them there. Three people familiar with this development said Never Back Down recently relocated door-knockers from South Carolina to Iowa.”

“One person who formerly worked on an early-state door-knocking effort on DeSantis’ behalf said Never Back Down ‘wasted tens of millions of dollars, essentially chasing rural voters who had no interest in Ron DeSantis whatsoever.’”

New York Times: “That ground game has increasingly centered on a do-or-die push in Iowa… Never Back Down has knocked on doors more than 801,000 times — including repeated visits — in Iowa, according to another person familiar with its work, a staggering number in a state of just 3.2 million people.”

NBC News: “While DeSantis asserted that his presidential aspirations do not hinge on the state, his campaign has devoted outsize resources and time to it… Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting DeSantis’ bid with a big Iowa ground game, has ceased its door-knocking operations in Nevada and Super Tuesday states, including California, North Carolina and Texas.”

DeSantis made a big play for the endorsements of Governor Kim Reynolds and evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats.

New York Magazine: “DeSantis selected the Iowa caucus as his ideal launching ground. He received endorsements from Kim Reynolds, the state’s Republican governor, Bob Vander Plaats, the boss of its largest Christian-right political machine, and other influential leaders.”

CNN: “The backing from Vander Plaats comes after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed DeSantis as the Florida governor has focused his campaign’s strategy on Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. He previously said that he has discussed a possible endorsement with Reynolds.”

CNN: “DeSantis, meanwhile, brought Reynolds into the fold early. Before he was even a presidential candidate, the two shared a stage as he toured Iowa to promote his second book. He cheered on her successful efforts to pass a six-week abortion ban that mirrored one he signed in Florida and defended her in July when Trump lashed out at Reynolds for not returning the favor after he endorsed her gubernatorial bid in 2018.”

Reuters: “DeSantis had courted Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the Christian advocacy group the Family Leader, in recent months. He campaigned at several faith-based forums while championing strict limits on abortion as part of a heavy push for a strong finish in Iowa, which will hold its caucuses on Jan. 15. The DeSantis campaign, a super PAC linked to him and a nonprofit group supporting him together paid $95,000 in recent months to Vander Plaats’ organization, the Family Leader, Reuters exclusively reported in August.”