Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2024 Presidential campaign has been fraught with problems since its very beginning. From an online campaign announcement that failed disastrously to a complete loss of ground in national polling numbers, DeSantis’ grip on his second-place poll rank is slipping.
But not long ago, the political world was convinced DeSantis would be a bitter rival for arguably one of the nation’s biggest names in American politics: Donald Trump.
So what happened?
I think it’s easiest to understand the DeSantis campaign, by looking within it. When you lift off the face of the campaign, you can begin to understand how we got to where we are today.
DeSantis’ campaign staff has a high level of turnover. This made national headlines in both July and August. As someone who has worked on campaigns both locally and statewide, turnover causes a lot of problems. When you constantly have staff changes no procedures become routine, communication gets halted, and the campaign culture is non-existent.
These things matter. If you don’t have a cohesive staff, then it’s almost impossible for your message and goals to be as well.
DeSantis has money issues. Despite what Oliver Anothony may think, DeSantis does not fall into the category of the “rich men north of Richmond.” These issues are evident in the first six weeks of his campaign. He blew through $7.9 million dollars in those few weeks on operating expenditures which resulted in his campaign staff cuts.
The Desantis campaign overestimated fundraising and staff support. While Desantis may tout that his campaign has significant support from thousands of grassroots donors, much of their finances come from a few main donors who, according to the FEC, have tapped out their credit cards.
The actual policies the campaign has put together face challenges. DeSantis’ biggest super PAC is largely funded by Robert Bigelow, who contributed $20 million to his campaign. Before the first Republican Presidential Debate, Bigelow threatened to “cut off funds” if he didn’t pursue more moderate policies. This threat makes DeSantis’ response difficult. If he chooses to follow his financer's opinions, he’ll seem like a candidate who doesn’t have much of a backbone, but on the other hand, without these large donors, the DeSantis campaign could have further money issues.
Decisions like this really expose what a campaign is all about — the message or the money. Although it seems risky, the more you’re willing to stick with your beliefs the better you’ll hold against other candidates that waver.
DeSantis also has a charisma problem. He is not an engaging or interesting person to watch. It’s not just his opponents that think this either, in fact, one of his consulting firms believes this as well.
Days before his first Republican Presidential debate, DeSantis’ debate strategies were posted online. While the intentions behind this are unknown, the notes are all we need to know about the inner workings of his campaign. Most notably, the strategies tell DeSantis to make sure he is “showing emotion” and to “defend Trump.” Strategies that arguably are common sense in a Republican political landscape that has stuck to Trumpism.
DeSantis faces an uphill battle to get back into the presidential race. Some polls have shown his second-place spot given to Nikki Haley, with DeSantis taking third. A trend that only seems more likely as Vivek Ramaswamy gains popularity.
While the future is still uncertain, unless DeSantis can take hold of his campaign issues, he will likely never see the inside of the Oval Office.
Cayman Forbes is a UF political science and international studies senior.