Update: Once seen as the future of the Republican party, Ron DeSantis officially ended his campaign on January 21, claiming he foresaw no "clear path to victory."
Few expected to see the Florida governor throw in the towel this early, but his poor results at the Iowa caucuses sealed his fate. "It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance," he said. "He has my endorsement because we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents."
As the opening salvo of the contested Republican presidential nomination contest rapidly approaches next month in Iowa and New Hampshire, voters, bettors, and political forecasters alike are wondering if anyone can overtake polarizing frontrunner Donald Trump as the GOP standard-bearer. Additionally, the question remains if any candidate will emerge to dethrone either Trump or incumbent President Joe Biden to win the White House.
One potential candidate is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, an unequivocally, unapologetically conservative firebrand representing a younger generation of presidential hopefuls. DeSantis appeared poised to wrest the Republican Party mantle away from Trump in the wake of the former president’s 2020 election loss, but the Sunshine State leader’s meteoric rise has flagged throughout this past year.
Let's take a closer look at Ron DeSantis' presidential election odds and examine the key obstacles that may stand in his path.
Ron DeSantis fast facts
|Date of birth
|September 14, 1978
|Place of birth
|$1.4 million USD
|Yale (2001); Harvard Law School (2005)
Odds to win the 2024 US presidential election
|Odds to win 2024 US election at
|Robert Kennedy Jr.
Odds courtesy of bet365 as of January 21, 2024.
DeSantis' national profile is lacking
The reality is that Ron DeSantis’ odds of winning the 2024 U.S. presidential election are extremely low. Despite becoming a darling of Republican voters for his aggressively right-wing cultural issue positions and presiding over a period of sustained economic growth in Florida, DeSantis’ national stature has never risen anywhere near his approval level in his home state. Moreover, ordinary GOP voters’ appetite for an alternative to Trump seems to be far less than that of some elected Republican leaders and media elite.
Trump retains a large polling advantage over both DeSantis and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley nationally and in the key early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and perhaps most devastatingly to DeSantis’ suddenly longshot bid, the former president and Palm Beach resident enjoys a 35-percentage point lead over Florida’s chief executive in both gentlemen’s home state.
DeSantis is unlikely to face off against Biden
Latest betting odds list DeSantis as a +3,300 underdog to win the 2024 presidential election, an implied probability of 2.94%. This figure is consistent with my projections: DeSantis is quite unlikely to win the race for the country’s highest political office because his support among the Republican voter base is anemic relative to that of Trump. The good news for DeSantis is that he is running even with, or slightly ahead of, Biden in recent polls presenting voters with a hypothetical head-to-head general election matchup. The problem, of course, remains DeSantis’ low likelihood of ever landing the opportunity to face off against Biden.
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DeSantis' cultural conservatism has made him popular with Florida voters
Originally elected as Florida governor by a razor-thin margin of .4% - representing one of the closest gubernatorial elections in modern American history - over then-Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in 2018, DeSantis was easily re-elected in 2022 thanks to his popular, uncompromisingly conservative platform in increasingly deep red Florida. The Ivy League-educated DeSantis has appealed to Florida voters’ populist sentiments in routinely lambasting the so-called "elite" political, media and scientific "establishment." He opposed COVID-19 restrictions, declaring, for example, that Florida would remain "open for business" in issuing an executive order in late 2020 overriding local elected officials’ decisions to shutter establishments during the pandemic. He has also garnered political support for his "war on woke," signing, among other legislation, a provision precluding the state’s institutions of higher education from using tax dollars to fund diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
He has similarly inveighed against critical race theory - which highlights the institutional racism endemic to American life - and banned any mention of it in Florida public schools, leading education officials across the state to remove offending library books. DeSantis has argued that parental rights are the hallmark of his cultural crusades, a key component of which is an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. He championed measures prohibiting any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in in grade school - a policy that critics label "Don’t Say Gay" - and requiring transgender people to use the public bathroom corresponding to their assigned gender at birth. DeSantis’ cultural conservatism extends to hardline immigration positions and support for a new state law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. These postures are collectively designed to portray DeSantis as the guardian of Florida’s cultural conservatism against the perceived nationwide dominance of progressivism.
2024 presidential elections Republican candidates odds
|Francis X. Suarez
Odds courtesy of bet365 as of January 21, 2024.
Campaign flubs and leaked notes have hurt DeSantis lately
Sunshine State voters have rewarded DeSantis’ ideological purity and economic stewardship with a second term and consistently high approval ratings, but the love affair stops at Mar-a-Lago’s edge. After starting 2023 within striking distance of Trump in public opinion polling of Republicans, DeSantis has experienced a steady, monotonic decline in support due to repeated campaign flubs, awkwardness, lack of charisma, staff-in-fighting and underwhelming debate performances, as well as Trump’s resurgence despite the former president’s ongoing legal woes.
DeSantis was lampooned when his leaked first Republican primary debate notes explicitly advised him to avoid criticizing Trump, and his subsequent efforts to attack the GOP frontrunner have foundered amid continued adoration for Trump among Republican voters nationwide. Although DeSantis scored the endorsement of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and has remained narrowly ahead of his chief anti-Trump rival, Nikki Haley, in the Hawkeye State, Trump’s lead over DeSantis remains nearly 30 percentage points there. The largest margin of victory in the Iowa Republican caucus since 1976 is 12 percentage points, when Bob Dole defeated runner-up Pat Robertson 37% to 25% in a nomination contest and presidential election eventually won by George H.W. Bush, meaning that Trump is poised to shatter the record in six weeks.
DeSantis has seemingly not gained traction from his strangely timed recent debate against California Governor Gavin Newsom, and Trump’s war chest dwarfs "DeSanctimonious" fundraising entering primary season. I rate Ron DeSantis as unlikely to win the Republican nomination, and therefore the presidency, in 2024.