Let’s go way back to 1976.
Gerald Ford was the sitting Republican president. Jimmy Carter of Georgia was going to beat him in the fall. And Ronald Reagan’s primary campaign to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination was in deep doo-doo.
My father had lost seven primaries in a row to Ford. Most Republicans in Congress were backing Ford — even Sen. Barry Goldwater, the conservative candidate my father supported in 1964 with his famous “A Time for Choosing” speech.
At one point in the spring of 1976 my father was in his plane on an airport tarmac. His campaign had no money left to buy jet fuel. He needed a political miracle, a way to live for another day and stay in the primary game.
Lo and behold, at the darkest hour, the angel who came to his rescue was Jesse Helms, the super-conservative Republican senator from North Carolina.
With the backing of Helms and his strong political organization, my father won the North Carolina primary in March, picked up momentum and beat Ford in 23 more primaries. Then he nearly won the nomination at the contested Republican convention with 1,078 delegates to Ford’s 1,121.
My father was asked by Ford to speak at the end of the convention, which he did as a way to preserve party unity and show his support for Ford.
But it was also a brilliant personal political move because my father’s speech also served as a launching pad to help him win the 1980 GOP nomination and ultimately the presidency.
Without Jesse Helms’ support, my father might have faded away by 1980 and there never would have been a President Reagan.
Likewise, but on a more negative note for the country’s health, in 2020 there might never have been a President Joe Biden if South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn hadn’t come to his rescue during the Democrat primaries.
In the run-up to the South Carolina primary Biden’s candidacy was on life support. His party was fractured and in disarray, and President Donald Trump looked like a sure winner in the fall. But then Rep. Clyburn stepped up and called on his state’s Black voters to get out and vote for Joe — and they came out in force.
Biden won the South Carolina primary and started down the road to winning the Democrat nomination and the White House.
In the 1976 and 2020 primaries my father and Joe Biden were both saved just in time because angels came to their rescue out of nowhere. But when I look at the 2024 primary, there are no angels ready to fly in and save Ron DeSantis, keep him in the race until the end and earn him a prime-time speaking spot at the GOP national convention this summer.
DeSantis is and has been a great governor of Florida. But he has zero chance of beating Trump for the nomination. DeSantis’ road to the White House in 2024 is already gone and all the bridges are down. He’s spent more money than anyone, but he’s gone backward.
If he competes in the New Hampshire primary race, he’ll be crushed there by Trump just as he was in Iowa. If he goes to South Carolina, he’ll be crushed again. By staying in the primary race any longer, DeSantis will only hurt the GOP and close the door for himself in 2028.
If he ever hopes to be a viable Republican presidential candidate, he should endorse Trump for president and go back to Florida. Then, after being the best damn Republican governor he can be for the next four years, he should do what he should have done all along — run for president in 2028.
Nikki Haley obviously is not going anywhere this year, either. If she ever wants to run for president again, she should do what DeSantis should do — quit now.
Michael Reagan, the son of President Ronald Reagan, is an author, speaker and president of the Reagan Legacy Foundation. Send comments to email@example.com and follow @reaganworld on X.