The 2024 Republican presidential primary is down to its final two candidates following Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s recent decision to suspend his campaign.
DeSantis, who polled at 24 percent to Trump’s 48 percent in a Wall Street Journal survey one month before he announced his campaign, was initially considered the main Republican alternative to former President Donald Trump. Nearly two weeks ago, he suffered a 30-point loss to Trump at the Iowa caucuses, and the field has now narrowed to Trump and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley — who served as ambassador to the United Nations in Trump’s cabinet.
Trump defeated Haley in New Hampshire Tuesday night by about 11 points to claim his second primary victory. She had earned an endorsement from New Hampshire’s popular Republican governor and had hoped to win the contest because of the state’s large number of independent and moderate voters.
Greg Robinson — the chair of Binghamton University’s political science department, where he also serves as an associate professor — shared his thoughts about what hindered DeSantis’s candidacy
“My comment would be this — trying to be Trump 2.0 was not a viable strategy for DeSantis,” Robinson wrote in an email. “The dysfunction of the Florida Democratic Party may have given a lot of people a false impression of DeSantis’s political talent.”
DeSantis’s record as governor, particularly his positions on race and LGBTQ+ education in Florida’s schools, COVID-19 and abortion, had received praise from some conservatives. These, along with DeSantis’ relative youth, had initially created a belief in his ability to usurp Trump as the strongest Republican candidate to face incumbent President Joe Biden in November.
Logan Blakeslee ‘23, a Binghamton resident and the former secretary of BU’s College Republicans, offered his perspective on DeSantis’ candidacy and his future in the Republican party.
“[DeSantis] is a popular figure among college-aged Republicans and his decision to drop out is disheartening but not surprising,” Blakeslee wrote in an email. “He set a strong example for conservatives to make strides in future elections, and I hope he will consider running again in 2028. He will have plenty of time to hire more experienced campaign staff and streamline his messaging for the American people, as these were among his campaign’s biggest flaws in this primary cycle.”
Haley’s campaign has focused on foreign policy and immigration, with a more moderate stance on abortion. She took third place in Iowa.
Blakeslee expressed concern with the state of the Republican Party, particularly with the viability of its two remaining candidates.
“Having the remaining candidates be [Trump] and [Haley] presents a major problem for the Republican Party,” Blakeslee wrote. “Trump is superior at generating voter turnout among conservatives, while Haley’s strength lies with moderates and independents. This setup gives [Trump] an advantage in the primary and a disadvantage in the general election, and vice versa for Haley.”
Though Trump took New Hampshire, he won with a smaller margin of victory than in Iowa, a more socially conservative state. With his first two wins, the former president holds the lead with 32 delegates to Haley’s 17. The primary now heads through South Carolina, Haley’s home state.
“In two pretty different states, upward of 40 percent of Republican voters seem to want someone other than Trump,” Robinson said. “For a candidate who’s as close to an incumbent as possible without actually being the sitting president, it’s an underperformance. Republican elites seem more convinced than their voters that Trump is the best candidate. I think he still wins the nomination, but lots of observers across the political spectrum are seeing warning signs for Trump in the general election. Whether Biden’s campaign can capitalize on that remains to be seen, though.”