Ron DeSantis, Florida Seaports
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo credit: JAXPORT / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The rise and fall of Ron DeSantis is a great illustration of the volatility of the early days of presidential campaigns.

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In primary politics, perception is reality. Just a few months ago, that helped Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis build up a head of steam before declaring his candidacy. Now, however, that bubble has burst, and he looks like a candidate who might as well drop out now to spare himself further embarrassment.

The rise and fall of DeSantis is a great illustration of the volatility of the early days of presidential campaigns. With no actual votes to go on, a candidate’s popularity is measured by polls, media coverage, money raised, and endorsements.

By those benchmarks, the Florida governor looked formidable at the beginning of the year. Buoyed by a string of Fox News appearances hyping his culture war, as well as a GOP establishment eager to move on from former President Donald Trump, DeSantis looked like the horse to bet on in this race.

And that’s what lots of deep-pocketed Republican donors did, which is why it seemed as though the governor would be able to run an extremely well-funded campaign. All that attention translated into lots of media coverage, which, in turn, resulted in a bump in the polls and caused lots of people to jump onto the DeSantis bandwagon.

There were just a couple of problems that the so-called experts conveniently overlooked. While the Florida governor might look like a formidable culture warrior on TV, he is not a good candidate.

More importantly, at some point, that bandwagon was going to run into a roadblock named Trump. We have pointed this out repeatedly and noted that DeSantis never should have run in 2024.

And now that the wheels are coming off, the Florida governor is going to experience the flipside of that “perception is reality” thing.

The fawning news coverage of a few months ago has turned into a completely different narrative today. The announcement that DeSantis is going to cut one-third of his staff is just the latest piece of evidence that he is finished. While some people still call this a reset, it looks more like an implosion.

Consequently, donations will dry up, his poll numbers will continue to dip, and all of that will lead to more bad press. Just wait until he dips into the single digits or is overtaken by another candidate.

It’s a vicious cycle that even a good candidate would have trouble breaking out of. And DeSantis is not a good candidate.

It would take a massive game changer for him to shed the loser image, and it is tough to see where that would come from. Without seeming desperate, he must come out swinging in the GOP debate a month from now. In all honesty, however, it seems unlikely that the Florida governor can get back on track, especially because he is trying to overtake Trump in a lane that the former president firmly occupies.

With DeSantis on the DeScent, that begs the question who is going to get hyped next and what that means for the race.

The mainstream media is going to want to anoint somebody else as Trump’s main challenger. After all, who likes a boring race in which one candidate has the nomination wrapped up more than a year before the election? Hint: Certainly not the media, which is why you can start getting ready for a bunch of stories fawning over Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) or Vivek Ramaswamy.

Originally published July 25, 2023; updated July 26, 2023.  


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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