The Florida governor had several moments before and during his ill-fated candidacy that hurt his campaign, from technical glitches during his launch to awkward interactions with voters. Here are six lowlights from the doomed DeSantis campaign.
Waiting too long to enter the race
DeSantis’s earliest misstep came before the campaign began when he waited until May 2023 to announce his candidacy. He had won his reelection as governor of Florida in a 20-point landslide in November 2022 and was widely seen as a viable contender in the GOP presidential field after several candidates backed by former President Donald Trump lost their races.
DeSantis had been polling within striking distance of Trump after the 2022 election but lost momentum when Trump was indicted, for the first of four times in 2023, in Manhattan at the end of March. By the time DeSantis announced his candidacy, he was trailing Trump by roughly 35 points — after being behind by only 13 points in earlier months.
Technical glitches at launch
When DeSantis did enter the race, he opted to do so on a Twitter Spaces event with platform owner Elon Musk and Craft Ventures co-founder David Sacks. The event on Twitter, now known as X, was riddled with technical glitches and problems.
The problems with the Twitter Space were blamed by Musk on the 400,000 users who attempted to tune into the announcement.
Not going on offense early in the campaign
Once DeSantis was in the race, he did not go on several traditional media platforms, opting to appear in more GOP-friendly media. In an interview last week, the Florida governor admitted that not going for a blanket approach to media in the early part of his campaign was a mistake.
“I came in not really doing as much media. I should have just been blanketing. I should have gone on all the corporate shows. I should have gone on everything,” DeSantis said. “We had an opportunity, I think, to come out of the gate and do that and reach a much broader folk. Now, I’m everywhere. I mean, I’ll show up wherever.”
He also failed to go after Trump early in the campaign, only creating the contrast between himself and the former president in the later months of his candidacy.
Campaign staffer shares video with Nazi iconography
One of the early scandals in the DeSantis campaign came in July when a staffer reportedly made a video hyping the Florida governor that included a Nazi symbol in the background. The video was allegedly made by Nate Hochman and shared by himself on X.
Hochman was later let go from the campaign as part of a round of layoffs. It was not clear if the layoff was due specifically to the controversial video being created.
Awkward interactions with voters
DeSantis had several moments with voters early in the campaign that were mocked for being awkward.
Some of the interactions that made headlines included when he asked a child in July at the Wayne County Fairgrounds in Iowa if they had an ICEE, noting that it “probably” had a lot of sugar, and when he asked a man his name, only to respond with “OK.”
Using fake Churchill quote to end campaign
When announcing he would be ending his presidential campaign in a post on X on Sunday, DeSantis quoted former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in saying, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” The quote seemed like a nice way to end the campaign, except it doesn’t appear Churchill ever said the line.
The International Churchill Society examined more than 50 million words written and said by the former British prime minister and was unable to find an instance of him saying that line, according to a 2013 report by the group.