Ron DeSantis’ Weirdest Campaign Moments

Ron DeSantis 1

After months on political life support, Ron DeSantis has finally put himself — and everyone else — out of his misery and suspended his campaign for the 2024 Republican nomination. While the Florida governor ran on a wet dream policy package for extremist, culture war-obsessed conservatives, his campaign simply could not overcome its biggest obstacle: Ron DeSantis himself. 

American presidential politics has a storied history of promising candidates tanking over awkward moments and unfortunate gaffes. Jeb Bush begging his audience to “please clap,” Howard Dean’s scream, Richard Nixon looking super sweaty during a debate against John F. Kennedy, and Michael Dukakis wearing an ill-fitting helmet during a ride in a tank are all moments that live in infamy as campaign-obliterating blunders. But perhaps no candidate in recent memory has had a more awkward, humiliating run for the White House than DeSantis. 

From its inception to its end, the DeSantis campaign struggled to compensate for a candidate who had the charisma of a slug in a salt mine. For all the success the Florida governor had turning his state into a fantasy sandbox for Republican grievance politics, throughout his bid for the presidency it often seemed like DeSantis couldn’t figure out how to behave like a real human. To commemorate the end of the presidential run that gripped the nation for all the wrong reasons, here are some of DeSantis’ weirdest, awkwardest, and most cringe-inducing campaign moments.  

Letting Elon Musk ruin his campaign launch   

After months of running a shadow campaign under the flimsy guise of a national book tour, DeSantis chose to officially launch his run for the White House via an exclusive event on Twitter Spaces. It did not go well. 

The launch, hosted by X owner Elon Musk, was a glitch-filled fiasco that in retrospect was the biggest sign of how DeSantis’ campaign would unfold. Amid technical issues, server crashes, and long awkward silences, Musk ultimately was forced to open a second stream where DeSantis was finally able to announce his candidacy. 

DeSantis’ rivals pounced on the botched announcement.  “Wow! The DeSanctus TWITTER launch is a DISASTER!” former president Donald Trump wrote on Truth Social. President Biden‘s team got a crack in as well, tweeting out a donation link captioned “This link works.” 

Eating pudding with his fingers — allegedly 

Throughout the campaign, rumors swirled that DeSantis was not only awkward in public, but had terrible manners behind the scenes. Enter chocolate pudding cups. 

In March, before DeSantis officially declared his candidacy, The Daily Beast released a report featuring anonymous commentary from an ex-DeSantis staffer who alleged the Florida governor once gobbled down a chocolate pudding cup using three of his fingers while on board a private plane to Washington, D.C.  

The hubbub around DeSantis’ finger-licking habits grew so large that he was forced to publicly address the chocolaty charges during an interview with Piers Morgan. “I don’t remember ever doing that,” DeSantis said, “maybe when I was a kid.”

The denial didn’t stop the Trump-affiliated Make America Great Again PAC from releasing an ad attacking DeSantis as a man who “loves sticking his fingers where they don’t belong, and we’re not just talking about pudding.”

Gross eating habits were just the beginning of a long slew of etiquette faux pas that plagued DeSantis’ campaign. Former state officials claimed he was a bit of a slob who never cleaned up after himself,  other politicians complained he would intentionally ignore them or pretend not to recognize them, and former staffers described him to Rolling Stone as just plain rude. No a good look. 

Using Nazi symbols in his campaign content 

DeSantis was desperate to create the impression that his campaign had a widespread base of organic support, especially online. To achieve this, the campaign’s “War Room” created a system in which they would produce pro-DeSantis videos to shop out to influencers. 

One of these videos backfired horrifically when one staffer, Nate Hochman, produced and then promoted a video featuring an image of a Sonnenrad, a symbol that was co-opted by the Nazi regime.

DeSantis never directly took responsibility for the image’s use (although Hochman was fired from the campaign), but the incident caused headaches for the Florida governor’s backers. As one DeSantis doner put it to Rolling Stone at the time “If they keep blowing money on fucking memes, I’m out.” 

Using heel lifts to boost his height — again, allegedly

Presidential candidates often try and present themselves as rugged, rough-and-tumble everymen who can identify with the average blue-collar voter. For DeSantis, that meant pairing his suits with a pair of extremely shiny, extremely pointy, extremely uncomfortable-looking cowboy boots. 

Don’t get us wrong, we love a good boot. DeSantis’ boots, however, did not seem to be made for walkin’, and he took up the awkward gait of a man forced to bear his weight on his tippy toes. 

The bombastic boots spurred theories that he was actually wearing lifts inside his shoes to appear taller than his given height of 5’11’’.

The mockery and speculation grew so intense that Politico tapped menswear writer Derek Guy to investigate the allegations of shoe shenanigans. Zephan Parker, of the renowned Parker Boot Company — and two other cobbling experts — told Guy that there was little doubt DeSantis was wearing lifts. 

“Traditional Western boots are typically built with an elevated heel”, Parker explained to Guy, adding that inserting lifts into the boots would effectively “turn them into five-inch stilettos.”

“That’s too much for the common man,” he added. 

He struggled to crack a human smile during the debates

Nowhere were DeSantis’ struggles to appear comfortable in his own skin more evident than when he was forced to interact with other humans on national television. 

Debate nights seemed to be a torturous exercise for the Florida governor, who opened virtually every on-stage appearance with a smile that screamed “I am trapped in this flesh prison please free me.” 

Here’s another one: 

DeSantis wasn’t a very good debater, either. He was often steamrolled by the obnoxious antics of Vivek Ramaswamy and — as previously reported by Rolling Stone failed to impress donors. He did manage to whip out a printed-out “poop map” of San Francisco during a debate with Gavin Newsom, which later gave the Democratic California governor the opportunity to sum up how we all felt about DeSantis’ campaign: “I was embarrassed for him.” 

He was unable to have a normal interaction with normal people 

DeSantis may not have won the nomination, but he will likely go down as one of the most awkward retail politicians in modern memory. 

We’ve covered awkward smiles, but DeSantis also unleashed their louder, more terrifying cousin upon the masses: his laugh. The Florida governor had an open-jawed, body-contorting fake laugh that made him look like he was about to devour whatever hapless Iowan happened to be standing in front of him in one gulp. 

When DeSantis wasn’t letting voters get a full frontal view of his uvula, he was (allegedly) rubbing his snot on unsuspecting potential supporters. On more than one occasion, DeSantis was caught allegedly rubbing his nose and then swiping his hand on the nearest body he could make contact with — including a guy in a wheelchair. 

He was no better around children. During one campaign stop in Iowa, DeSantis asked a young child what they were drinking. “An ICEE,” the kid responded. The governor was unimpressed, quipping “that’s probably a lot of sugar,” before moving along. 


He capped his national humiliation by endorsing Trump 

DeSantis’ campaign was filled with bizarre gaffes, but nothing defined it more than its place on the receiving end of a relentless barrage of attacks from Donald Trump. The former president, feeling betrayed by the man he endorsed for governor of Florida, had a field day making fun of “Ron DeSanctimonious” for many of the reasons listed above, while also accusing him of everything from homosexuality to pedophilia. DeSantis capped his national humiliation by endorsing Trump immediately after dropping out of the race. “He has my endorsement because we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts,” DeSantis wrote on his announcement video, attributing the quote to Winston Churchill. There’s no evidence, however, that Churchill ever said this.

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