January 17, 2024

In Brief: Why DeSantis Failed in Iowa

If DeSantis had better understood the underlying dynamics of the race, he would never have gone directly after Trump.

Donald Trump won the Iowa caucuses with a record-shattering 51% of the vote. Ron DeSantis finished a disappointing second with just 21%. What happened? Political analyst John Daniel Davidson has some answers about how “His campaign is now a cautionary tale about how not to go after Trump.”

DeSantis had every advantage before he launched his presidential bid. He was a popular governor of a large state who won reelection in a landslide in 2022, notched major, substantive policy victories, and was adept at punching back at hostile corporate media. Yet somehow he managed to squander all this and flame out in Iowa. Recall that less than a year ago, in April 2023, before he launched his campaign for president, DeSantis was polling near 30 percent in the Hawkeye State.

Davidson recounts how much money and time DeSantis spent in Iowa — visiting all 99 counties and blowing through $35 million, including via his PACs.

His strategy was to win Iowa to show GOP voters nationwide that he could take on Trump and win. As events have shown, that was a big mistake. But it fits within a recognizable pattern in the DeSantis campaign: Every decision was about comparing himself to Trump in the most explicit and unhelpful ways. Ever since he announced his candidacy, DeSantis has been obsessed with taking on Trump, never missing an opportunity to malign the former president or take a cheap shot, even when it was unnecessary or frankly irrelevant to whatever he was talking about.

It was a curious approach to take in a race where all the fundamentals suggested that aggressively going after Trump would alienate and anger GOP primary voters, especially as Democrats ramped up their unconstitutional schemes to imprison Trump or, failing that, keep him off the ballot in as many states as possible.

Like it or not, many Republicans have a unique bond with Trump, not just because they had to endure a lot of grief for supporting him in the past but also because they see how Democrats and the media have weaponized entire institutions against him in the most outrageous and dangerous ways. Even if these GOP voters are open to supporting other candidates this time around, the last thing they want is to be told that Trump is awful, which comes off as an indictment of them and their judgment.

It’s odd that DeSantis was never able to figure that out, or that no one in his orbit was able to persuade him to take a different approach.

Davidson adds:

DeSantis didn’t need to attack Trump to make his case for the GOP nomination. He could have praised Trump’s achievements and defended him from the unfair attacks leveled at him by Democrats, as Vivek Ramaswamy has done, and simply ignored Trump’s insults. At the same time, he could have instead focused on explaining and touting his own considerable accomplishments in Florida.

Yet DeSantis seemingly didn’t have a strategy to communicate his own successes nationally, which put him at a huge disadvantage against Trump, who’s basically the incumbent.

He concludes:

It didn’t have to be this way. Instead of listening to “Beltway vest aficionados” and hiring too-online campaign staff, DeSantis could have ignored Trump’s attacks, touted his own impressive accomplishments, and embraced favorable (and unfavorable) press coverage. DeSantis is actually very good at handling the press and could have used them to his advantage (as Trump did in 2016). Doing this would have drawn implicit comparisons to Trump without DeSantis himself ever having to utter Trump’s name — except to defend the former president from the real enemy, which is the Democrats and their republic-killing machinations to destroy electoral politics.

Indeed, this is where DeSantis really went astray. He mistook Trump for his main opponent when his real opponent — and the real villain in all this — is the Democrat machine that’s trying not only to take out Trump before November but also to destroy democracy and self-government in this country. The primary so far has been a target-rich environment, it’s just that Trump shouldn’t have been one of the targets, much less the main one.

Read the whole thing here.

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

The Patriot Post and Patriot Foundation Trust, in keeping with our Military Mission of Service to our uniformed service members and veterans, are proud to support and promote the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, both the Honoring the Sacrifice and Warrior Freedom Service Dogs aiding wounded veterans, the National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, the Folds of Honor outreach, and Officer Christian Fellowship, the Air University Foundation, and Naval War College Foundation, and the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:13)


“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

Please join us in prayer for our nation — that righteous leaders would rise and prevail and we would be united as Americans. Pray also for the protection of our Military Patriots, Veterans, First Responders, and their families. Please lift up your Patriot team and our mission to support and defend our Republic's Founding Principle of Liberty, that the fires of freedom would be ignited in the hearts and minds of our countrymen.

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2024 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.