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The DeSantis Fugue State

Ron DeSantis speaks to workers at a campaign office on January 12, 2024, in Urbandale, Iowa.
DeSantis is either munching his normal pills or simply falling victim to political delusion. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
January 17, 2024

After an underwhelming performance in Iowa, Ron DeSantis might have pivoted to face-saving measures to prevent the narrative, now taking form in Washington and Tallahassee, that he’s a Scott Walker-style political loser. DeSantis, who is only 45, could easily embark on a path that would set him up for a viable career in the Senate, say, or a cushy posting atop a conservative think tank, or perhaps another presidential run in 2028. Instead, his team is assuring donors and supporters that he’s taking his death march onward to New Hampshire, South Carolina, and then Super Tuesday, unfazed by the prospect of further tarnishing his political brand. DeSantis is either munching his normal pills or simply falling victim to political delusion. Even his wife and confidante, Casey, seemed to grasp the gravity of the loss in Iowa. She stood off to the side, away from the cameras, as he talked about punching his ticket to New Hampshire. 

But the reality is that DeSantis is also on track to get humiliated in New Hampshire next Tuesday. Despite having spent several days in the state this week, I’ve struggled to find a single DeSantis supporter. Voters I’ve talked to here do not care for his six-week abortion ban, or his culture warring with Disney and Florida’s school librarians. So, unsurprisingly, a recent Suffolk poll shows him at just 5 percent support in the state. (That same poll suggests that Haley also has an uphill battle, at 34 percent to Trump’s 50.) “DeSantis spends all of his time explaining, and that doesn’t work. People want to come to an event and they want to get hot. In New Hampshire, they want to get high; they want to come to a rally and leave it feeling excited and fired up, and you don’t get that at all with DeSantis,” said Drew Cline, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a conservative New Hampshire think tank. “That’s a big reason why he’s not doing well here.”