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DeSantis drops from race, handing Nevada caucus to Trump

Updated January 22, 2024 - 7:29 pm

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended his 2024 presidential bid and endorsed Donald Trump, all but guaranteeing the former president’s win of the upcoming Nevada caucuses.

“If there was anything I could do to produce a favorable outcome, more campaign stops, more interviews, I would do it,” DeSantis said in a video posted to X on Sunday. “But I can’t ask our supporters to volunteer their time and donate their resources if we don’t have a clear path to victory.”

DeSantis’ departure leaves only Trump and Texas pastor Ryan Binkley participating in the Feb. 8 caucuses, where Nevada Republicans will award candidates delegates to go to the Republican National Convention.

DeSantis’ announcement makes the Nevada caucuses even more of a “nonevent than it was already going to be,” said David Damore, a political science professor at UNLV, in an email.

Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Sunday that DeSantis’ departure and endorsement of Trump is a great step in unifying the Republican Party.

Even before DeSantis’ exit, polling pointed toward Trump winning the caucus, McDonald said. He hopes, however, that one fewer caucus participant does not decrease voter turnout.

“I hope this doesn’t diminish our numbers, hope everybody comes out and celebrates, that we have to take back the country,” McDonald said. “Let’s start moving the country … in a positive direction.”

Chuck Muth, a conservative commentator who publishes a Nevada-focused newsletter, said it was already known Trump would win the caucuses. With DeSantis dropping out, his supporters have no reason to go to the caucuses. He wouldn’t be surprised if fewer than 50,000 of the state’s 550,000 Republicans participate in the caucuses.

“I think it’s going to be a complete waste of the party’s money to put this thing on,” he said. “(It) always was, now it’s going to be even worse.”

One of the only other big-name GOP presidential candidates still running is former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, but she opted to participate in the state-run presidential primary Feb. 6. Because the Nevada Republican Party chooses which nominating process holds the most weight, no delegates will be awarded through the primary, rendering it more symbolic.

Binkley, who earned 0.7 percent of the votes from the Iowa caucuses, where Trump received 51 percent, urged DeSantis supporters to consider supporting his presidential campaign as an alternative.

“We need new leadership in this country to overcome the serious challenges we face,” he said in a statement Sunday. “I will bring that leadership to the people of our great nation.”

DeSantis is the latest domino to fall in the Republican presidential primary, following in the footsteps of candidates Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie, Tim Scott and Mike Pence.

In a Sunday statement, Trump’s campaign said it was honored by DeSantis’ endorsement and those of other former presidential candidates.

“It is now time for all Republicans to rally behind President Trump to defeat Crooked Joe Biden and end his disastrous presidency,” the campaign said.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on X.

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