Whispers of political futures unsettled fill the air as Iowans ready their caucuses.
The fate of Ron DeSantis's presidential campaign hangs in the balance as the Iowa caucuses approach, with speculation rampant about a possible withdrawal in the face of a Trump victory.
Amid the furor of an election season, the Iowa caucuses stand as a crucible for presidential hopefuls, a trial by fire that can forge a path to the White House or melt ambitions away. Reports have surfaced suggesting that the campaign of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis may be more precarious than previously believed. In December, the New York Times cast doubt on the vitality of his campaign, a claim quickly refuted by DeSantis's team.
Drawing on his extensive experience from previous Republican administrations, Douglas MacKinnon has shared his insights in The Hill regarding the current situation of the DeSantis campaign. According to MacKinnon, a significant donor and a top political strategist have suggested that a defeat in Iowa might lead to his withdrawal from the race.
I have heard from two people very familiar with the DeSantis campaign — a major donor and a high-level political operative — that if the Florida governor loses the Iowa caucuses to former President Donald Trump as expected on the night of Jan. 15, he will either drop out of the race that night or make his announcement the next morning.
Polls in Iowa currently depict a challenging landscape for DeSantis, with Trump enjoying a considerable lead, followed by Nikki Haley. This has led to reassessing DeSantis's strategy and his decision to confront Trump's commanding presence head-on. The very fabric of the Republican primary could be altered by the events in Iowa, a state notorious for its unpredictable caucus system.
MacKinnon has raised questions about the viability of DeSantis's campaign should he face defeat in the caucuses. The concern revolves around the blow to the campaign's morale and the practical matters of endorsements and financial support. The calculus of primary politics is unyielding, and the numbers post-Iowa may not add up favorably for the governor.
More than that, both believe DeSantis will then — very begrudgingly — endorse Trump for president. Come the night of Jan. 15, we will see whether DeSantis folds his hand and walks away from the table or goes all in with his dwindling stack of chips should ego rule reason. I suspect reason will win that contest.
It's a situation fraught with political tension. DeSantis's initial challenge to Trump was ambitious, taking on a figure who has achieved near-mythic status among many supporters. MacKinnon speculates that DeSantis's time to shine might be better slated for 2028, a sentiment that may become more prevalent after the caucuses.
The Iowa caucuses have a history of surprising outcomes, highlighting the unreliability of polls as predictors. JD Rucker from the Discern Report has noted Iowa's unique character, where frontrunners often stumble and dark horses may succeed. For instance, in 2016, Donald Trump, despite leading in pre-caucus polls, was defeated in Iowa by Senator Ted Cruz, serving as a reminder that predictions should not be taken for granted.
Donald Trump's popularity has partly grown due to perceived attacks against him, which some label as 'lawfare' by the Democrats. This perception has seemingly fortified his image as a 'folk hero' among his supporters. This phenomenon introduces additional complexity to the narrative of the 2024 primaries, as Trump's supporters appear to unite stronger in response to adversity.
On the other hand, DeSantis's campaign maintains its direction, treating talks of his potential withdrawal as mere rumors.
In Iowa, the upcoming caucuses are a pivotal moment for presidential hopefuls, particularly for Ron DeSantis, whose campaign's future is uncertain amid speculations of withdrawing in case of a defeat to Donald Trump. Reports from various sources, including The New York Times and insights from Douglas MacKinnon, a former Republican administration official, indicate that DeSantis's position is more fragile than it appears.
A major donor and a high-ranking strategist close to DeSantis suggest that a loss in Iowa might lead to his campaign's withdrawal, potentially shifting support to Trump. The current polls in Iowa show Trump with a substantial lead, casting doubts on DeSantis's strategy and his decision to confront Trump directly.
The viability of DeSantis's campaign post-Iowa is questioned, focusing on the impact on morale, endorsements, and financial support, with MacKinnon suggesting that DeSantis might endorse Trump if defeated. This situation highlights the unpredictable nature of the Iowa caucuses, where historical precedents demonstrate that poll leaders can be upstaged and underdogs can emerge victorious.