We know that every political candidate that runs for office such as the presidency cannot be elected. There is only one seat for one person. But this does not mean that it is a massive failure for all of those who did not get elected.
It’s fair to say that everything depends on the context and the circumstances. For example, we know that Vivek Ramaswamy did not end up victorious in these primaries on the basis of being the nominee. But this campaign was still a victory for him in the sense that he built a national profile for himself and, by extension, became now a key figure in the Republican Party and the America-First movement. Prior to this campaign, no one knew who he was and now he has become an essential figure in the MAGA movement.
The same could be said for Nikki Haley. While the chances of her becoming the nominee of the GOP are extremely slim against Donald Trump, this campaign was also a victory for her in the sense that she ascertained her national profile as the leading female political leader of the Republican Establishment. She somewhat became the “Hillary Clinton” of the Republican Party. Her performance as the only female candidate and pretty much finishing up second to Donald Trump and definitely ahead of Ron DeSantis in these primaries, consolidated her power and influence within the Republican Establishment. Thus, her overall campaign, even not emerging victorious in terms of getting the nomination, remains in victory because she beat the odds.
Ron DeSantis, however, is perhaps the greatest failure of this whole election cycle, not just the Republican primaries. And the reason being is that he underperformed throughout this entire campaign trail. Before jumping into the race, he was perhaps the most important figure in the Republican Party as many considered him the best alternative to Donald Trump. On the one hand, his stances were very similar to those of Donald Trump, especially on economic issues, and on the other hand, people believed that he was less uncompromising than Trump, thus, he could enhance bipartisanship on key legislative issues.
His performance as Governor during the pandemic is what ensconced his national profile today. He ran the most disappointing campaign. He did not thoroughly stand out during primary debates (Haley and Ramaswamy mostly did); his numbers in the polls took a downward trajectory for most of 2023. He published a book that failed to gain traction as the timing of the release did not match the hype of the primaries. This series of failures only compels us to ask one question: was he truly ready to run in 2024?
Our observation is that DeSantis was not fundamentally ready to take on the challenge but felt that he had no choice but to throw his hat in the ring. He did not assemble all the pieces of the puzzle he needed to launch a serious and compelling campaign. He wanted to wait his turn but the problem is that electoral politics is all about momentum.
DeSantis felt that if he did not run this year, the national prominence he gained thanks to his leadership during COVID-19 would have faded away; and that’s true. He would have gone into oblivion if he had not run this year, and that’s, unfortunately, the cruel game of electoral politics. This is even one of the reasons Chris Christie ran this year; to remain relevant by merely focusing on Donald Trump.
Now the challenge for Ron DeSantis is that his campaign was a real failure, which put him in a tough spot to make up his marks. It did not impact Republican and right-leaning independent voters. In fact, this failure has already started to overshadow his accomplishments as Governor. In a nutshell, DeSantis has become his own shadow.
We don’t know yet what he will do after suspending his campaign. But one thing we know is that he is going to have to do something radical in order to remain politically relevant otherwise, he will go into oblivion very fast.