At a campaign event in Seabrook, New Hampshire, Haley drew cheers when she announced that DeSantis had dropped out.
“For now, I’ll leave you with this: May the best woman win,” she said.
David Kochel, a Republican strategist who has worked on five presidential campaigns, said DeSantis’ exit was unlikely to change the basic contours of the campaign, given that his support had cratered.
“The race needs a big dynamic shift, and I don’t feel that DeSantis dropping out is that big a deal as he didn’t have that much going on in New Hampshire, and he didn’t even have that much going on in South Carolina,” he said.
Another Republican consultant, Ford O’Connell, who has ties to both the Trump and DeSantis camps, said he expected most DeSantis voters to “come home” to Trump.
“Without question, Trump is the beneficiary of DeSantis ending his campaign,” he said.
With time running short, Haley has sharpened her attacks on the frontrunner in the final days before the election, blaming Trump for Republican electoral losses in 2020 and 2022 and criticising his praise for authoritarian leaders.
ONCE A CONTENDER
Early last year, DeSantis was considered a top presidential contender and a natural heir to Trump due to his combative style and deeply conservative views. He led several head-to-head polls against Trump.
But his support had declined for several months, due to a flawed campaign strategy, his seeming lack of ease with voters on the campaign trail and Trump’s so far unshakeable command of much of the party’s base.
More than 70 per cent of Republicans have a favourable opinion of Trump, according to most polls. That forced DeSantis to try and appeal to voters who still admired Trump, as well as those who passionately disliked him.
DeSantis failed on both counts. He never successfully articulated to most Trump supporters why he was a better option, while Republicans looking to ditch the former president split their votes among multiple candidates.
While many major donors threw their support behind DeSantis early on, they began to rebel as early as the summer.
Several DeSantis allies say the governor waited too long to enter the race, which left him open to blistering attacks by Trump, who had announced his campaign more than six months earlier.
When DeSantis did formally launch his White House run in May 2023, it was a glitch-filled disaster on Twitter, now known as X, an inauspicious start for a campaign predicated on the governor’s executive competence.
The campaign overhired, burning through cash at a rapid rate, and then outsourced much of the traditional work of a campaign to an outside super PAC, which can accept donations of unlimited size but cannot coordinate with the campaign itself.