The Lost DeSantis Moment

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Ron DeSantis began the 2024 campaign as a formidable candidate, with early poll numbers that rivaled or even exceeded the likes of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.

In the end, that early strength meant only that he had more room to fall.

There are countless reasons Mr. DeSantis fell apart and ultimately ended his campaign Sunday — including that his opponent proved once again to be a juggernaut. Perhaps Mr. DeSantis might have won the nomination in most other years, if he hadn’t been going against a former president.

But rather than dwell on his losing campaign, it’s worth returning to his apparent strength at the outset — that brief moment when Mr. DeSantis, or at least the idea of Mr. DeSantis, routinely led Mr. Trump in high-quality head-to-head polls.

In the eight years since Donald J. Trump won the Republican nomination, this was the only moment when Republican voters appeared willing to go a different direction. Mr. DeSantis didn’t capitalize on the moment, but nonetheless it’s the only glimpse we’ve had into the post-Trump Republican Party. We saw something that might bring it about, and we saw what it might look like.

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The Lost DeSantis Moment

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