January 23, 2024

In Brief: DeSantis the Peloton Candidate

In a post-COVID world, there just wasn’t enough room for a candidate soaring like Peloton once did.

Our Mark Alexander thoroughly evaluated Ron DeSantis’s decision to suspend his presidential campaign. National Review Online editor Philip Klein has his own thoughts on why the Florida governor failed to gain traction.

By dropping out of the Republican presidential race, Governor Ron DeSantis made official what everybody who follows politics even tangentially could see coming for months. There have been, and there will continue to be, plenty of detailed reported pieces about the various campaign mistakes that caused his fall from an initial, competitive standing in early polls to a distant second-place finisher in Iowa that forced him out of the race before the New Hampshire primary. But the most basic explanation of what happened to DeSantis is that, by the time his campaign got going in earnest, there was simply not much demand for the product he was selling.

I am reminded of the story of Peloton. During the pandemic, the stationary-bike and fitness-app company was flooded with customers who were eager to stay in shape when gyms were closed, and it could not keep up with demand. But once Covid receded and life returned to normal, people wanted to get back into gyms. As a result, demand crashed, leaving the company with excess inventory, forcing them into several rounds of cost-cutting and restructuring to try and reassure investors. The stock, which peaked at nearly $163 per share in December 2020, is now trading at less than $6.

Klein finds this an especially apt comparison for DeSantis, whose COVID response was far better than Trump’s and catapulted him to national fame among conservatives outraged at lockdowns and the general reign of Anthony Fauci.

Add this to his legislative wins on traditional conservative issues (taxes, school choice, gun rights, and life), his demonstrated competence during hurricanes, and landslide reelection, and there was reason to believe that he was somebody who could cobble together a winning coalition in a Republican presidential primary.

Klein notes that DeSantis’s strategy was “that there were enough Republican voters out there who liked Trump but were open to moving on from him.” Unfortunately, Democrats had other plans.

Ultimately, the number of Republican voters who were ready to move on from Trump dwindled with each of Trump’s successive indictments.

Once it became clear that the demand for what DeSantis was offering wasn’t there, no amount of campaign reshuffles or message retoolings were going to make a difference.

Klein proceeds to opine about the timing of political campaigns. “There’s no real knowing that DeSantis would have done better had he waited another four years,” he said. So he repeated the key point in conclusion:

The bottom line is that not enough Republican voters were ready to move on from Trump, and that left no room for DeSantis.

National Review subscribers can read the whole thing here.

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