Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis finished in second place in Iowa on Monday night as the race now shifts to New Hampshire and South Carolina with questions swirling about what the second place finish will mean for his campaign going forward.
DeSantis outperformed some polling expectations on Monday night finishing at roughly 21% when the Real Clear Politics average of polls showed him at 15.7% before votes were cast. However, Trump won a decisive victory with over 50% of the vote, the largest margin of victory in Iowa Caucus history, in a state where DeSantis had gone ‘all in’ with his campaign’s time and resources.
The DeSantis campaign touted the performance by saying that the Florida governor ‘earned his ticket out of Iowa.’
Former Ambassador Nikki Haley, who many pundits believed was surging in Iowa and could potentially finish ahead of DeSantis, finished in 3rd place a couple of points behind DeSantis.
‘They threw everything at Ron DeSantis,’ a senior DeSantis campaign official told Fox News Digital late Monday night. ‘They couldn’t kill him. He is not only still standing, but he’s now earned his ticket out of Iowa. This is going to be a long battle ahead, but that is what this campaign is built for. The stakes are too high for this nation and we will not back down.’
During his Monday night speech, DeSantis struck a defiant tone while speaking to his supporters.
‘I can tell you, because of your support, in spite of all of that they threw at us, everyone against us, we’ve got our ticket punched out of Iowa,’ DeSantis said.
‘This is our responsibility to carry this torch and to preserve this sacred fire of liberty, DeSantis said. ‘We thank you for your effort. We thank you for your support. You helped us get a ticket punched out of the Hawkeye State. We have a lot of work to do, but I can tell you this as the next President of the United States, I am going to get the job done for this country. I am not going to make any excuses and I guarantee you this. I will not let you down.’
Despite the close 2nd place finish, questions about whether DeSantis has the momentum and funding to compete with Trump in future states are likely to continue.
Kellyanne Conway, former senior advisor to President Trump, told Fox News before the caucuses on Monday night that DeSantis ‘should continue on whether he finishes second or third.’
Fox News Chief Political Analyst Brit Hume pointed out that a second place finish in Iowa has historically led to securing the nomination on the GOP side.
‘Let’s not forget that second place has led to a lot of people winning the nomination in Iowa, you finish second in Iowa it’s worth something,’ Hume said as the results were coming in on Monday night. ‘There are a lot of places where it wouldn’t be and in the coming races in the future it won’t be as much but out here when you win second you go on and who knows you might win the nomination.’
Some on social media have called for DeSantis, and the other candidates, to drop out of the race given Trump’s dominant and historic victory on Monday night winning by roughly 30 points.
‘Deciding to drop out is the hardest decision a presidential candidate can make. It’s deeply personal and emotional, no matter how obvious or rational it seems,’ GOP strategist Alex Conant, founding partner at Firehouse Strategies, told Fox News Digital hours before the votes were cast in Iowa on Monday night.
‘If DeSantis does not beat Trump in Iowa tonight, he won’t beat him anywhere and his campaign will be effectively over. But it will be up to him when to drop out, and that’s anyone’s guess.’
DeSantis, who will hold two campaign events in South Carolina on Tuesday before flying to New Hampshire to campaign, has said multiple times that he is staying in the race regardless of Monday’s outcome in Iowa.
‘This campaign is built for the long-haul,’ DeSantis Comms Director Andrew Romeo said on January 12. ‘We intend to compete for every single available delegate in New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and then into March. That begins on Monday’s Iowa Caucus, and the next day we will kick our campaign into overdrive in both South Carolina and New Hampshire.’
‘We hope Donald Trump is ready for a long, scrappy campaign as we work to share Ron DeSantis’ vision across America. Game on.’
Because Iowa awards delegates proportionately, all of the top four candidates will receive delegates.
Trump currently holds large leads in the polls in both New Hampshire and South Carolina. The former president, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, holds a 14 point lead in New Hampshire and a 30 point lead in South Carolina.
The DeSantis campaign has touted his endorsements in Haley’s home state of South Carolina pointing out that he has earned more than she has.
‘Despite South Carolina being Nikki Haley’s home state, DeSantis has already built up an impressive grassroots organization,’ a campaign spokesperson recently told Fox News Digital. ‘He has endorsements from 74 current and former elected officials, while Haley has just 14. This includes 19 state legislators for DeSantis, compared to Haley’s 11.’