Last Call for 1.15.24 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

A digest of the day's politics and policy while the bartender refreshes your drink.

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Gov. Ron DeSantis is not expected to win Iowa tonight. He may not finish second, either. Given that, it’d be fair to call him an underdog and, according to his campaign, that’s exactly what he wants.

“DeSantis has been counted out by the press and pundits in every single race he has run and shattered expectations every time. Despite enduring $48 million in false negative spending — more than has been spent against Trump and (Joe) Biden combined — DeSantis tonight is in a position to prove the doubters who have already written his obituary wrong again,” DeSantis 2024 said in a news release.

While DeSantis has seemingly bet more on Iowa than anyone else, his campaign says it’s former President Donald Trump and former U.N. Amb. Nikki Haley who are heading into caucus night with “sky-high expectations.”

“This record spending, combined with the new Des Moines Register and Emerson polls claiming that she has overtaken DeSantis, means it’s second place or bust for Haley in Iowa. They can try to tamp down the hype all they want, but all the pressure is on Trump and Haley headed into tonight,” the campaign said.

The referenced poll found Haley leading DeSantis for No. 2, 20%-16%. The same survey, conducted by the paper alongside NBC News and Mediacom, found Trump with a dominant lead at 48%. The poll also found Vivek Ramaswamy in fourth at 8%.

An aside: Despite pulling half the support DeSantis is in Iowa, the entrepreneur-slash-provocateur has apparently won the hearts of bettors, who now believe he’s more likely to win the GOP nomination than the Florida Governor.

Back to Iowa.

DeSantis launched his final push this morning with another media blitz, appearing on Fox News, CNN, CBS and NewsNation before midday. DeSantis was sure to get his late-in-the-game mantra out at least once during the multi-stop tour.

“Donald Trump’s running for his issues. Nikki Haley’s running for the donors’ issues. I’m running for your issues, your family’s issues, and solely to turn this country around,” he said during an appearance on Fox & Friends, adding that his campaign has built the ground game to prove the pollsters wrong.

Meanwhile, the super PAC backing Haley’s run mainly focused its Monday messaging on Trump, dinging him for engaging in traditional presidential campaign politicking.

The top talking point in SFA Inc.’s memo: “According to Donald Trump, we didn’t even need to have a primary. His commanding lead was enough to skip Iowa visits and skip primary debates with his opponents. Nine months later, Team Trump is trying to forget these comments and manage expectations. Anything less than a dominating performance by Trump and a second-place finish for DeSantis, anything less is a disappointment.”

No matter the outcome tonight, DeSantis said his campaign plans to press on even though his prospects in the next nominating contests are far less rosy than in Iowa.

Next up is New Hampshire on Jan. 23. Trump also leads there, though his lead over Haley has been trimmed to single digits, and some onlookers assert a strong second-place showing could push her ahead of the former President — or “correct” Iowa, if one were to borrow her much-maligned phrasing.

After that is Nevada, where nobody not named Trump is polling in double digits.

Then comes South Carolina, where Haley was a two-term Governor. Her former constituents are leaning toward Trump, though her 25% support in the latest poll from Emerson College shows she’s in a much stronger position than DeSantis. There are a lot of “ifs” here, but if she were to outperform expectations in Iowa, and if New Hampshire were to go her way, the Palmetto State could remember why they elected her statewide twice. Maybe.

A strong showing by Florida’s Governor tonight could similarly change the narrative, but who knows what DeFuture holds? In honor of the record-setting cold, we’ll quote the closing scene of a John Carpenter classic: “Why don’t we just wait here for a little while … see what happens.”

Bill Day’s Latest

Evening Reads

—”The end is coming for Donald Trump’s GOP rivals” via Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic

—“Marco Rubio joins Rick Scott in endorsing Trump over Ron DeSantis for President” via Mark Skoneki of the Orlando Sentinel

—”DeSantis discounts Rubio endorsement of Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—”Trump’s grip on Republican politics is put to the test in ice-cold Iowa’s leadoff Caucuses” via Steve Peoples, Thomas Beaumont and Hannah Fingerhut of The Associated Press

—”DeSantis ready for ‘long, scrappy campaign’ past Iowa” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—”DeSantis sharpens attacks on Trump ahead of Iowa caucuses” via Max Greenwood of the Miami Herald

—“A big reason to pay attention to Iowa? New Hampshire.” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times

—”As Trump continues to hold lead in latest Iowa Poll, Nikki Haley overtakes DeSantis” via Robin Opsahl of the Iowa Capital Dispatch

—“With 2 elections unfolding, who’s in Central Florida and who’s in Iowa?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Quote of the Day

“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.”

— Gov. Ron DeSantis, on his post-Iowa plans.

Put It on the Tab

Look to your left, then look to your right. If you see one of these people at your happy hour haunt, flag down the bartender and put one of these on your tab. Recipes included, just in case the Cocktail Codex fell into the well.

It’s not like U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was ever a Ron DeSantis ally, but he still gets an Et Tu Brute for endorsing Trump on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. If you want to grab him a second round, a Bandwagon Dry & Tonic would also fit the bill.

DeSantis is defending his decision not to start his presidential campaign earlier than he did, saying he owed it to the people of Florida to keep his “promises.” Either way, he gets a Late to the Party.

It’s not clear whether Chris Christie sticking around through New Hampshire would have helped DeSantis in any meaningful way, but if the Governor wanted him to stay in the race he could’ve at least ordered him a Don’t Give Up The Ship.

As Floridians, we imagine it’s always cold in Iowa, but apparently, it’s like … cold, cold tonight. Presidential campaigns would be smart to have an array of hot cocktails on hand to ensure their supporters don’t go hypothermic. Here are a couple dozen options.

Breakthrough Insights

Tune In

Bucs try to stay hot vs. Eagles

The first round of NFL playoffs concludes tonight with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC)

Despite an inferior record, the Bucs (9-8) host this game because they won the NFC South.

Through the first half of the season, the Eagles (11-6) were the class of the NFL, winning their first five games and 10 of their first 11, including a Super Bowl rematch with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Then December arrived, and the Eagles lost five of their final six games, forcing them to travel for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay won five of their final six games to earn the division title and the home playoff game. Quarterback Baker Mayfield had a resurgent season passing for over 4,000 yards while throwing 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

While the Tampa passing game featuring a pair of 1,000-yard receivers, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the key to a Buccaneers victory could be the ground game. When Philadelphia struggled late in the year, it was because they could not stop the opponent’s running game. In each of the final eight games of the season, Philadelphia allowed the opposition to gain over 100 yards on the ground.

If Tampa can run the ball against the Eagles, they could advance to the divisional round of the playoffs. The Bucs rushed for 99 yards or more in five of the final seven games of the regular season.


7 p.m. — NCAAM: Chicago State Cougars @ Stetson Hatters

7:30 p.m. — Orlando Magic @ Miami Heat

8 p.m. — NCCAM: Grambling Tigers @ Florida A&M Rattlers


Last Call is published by Peter Schorsch, assembled and edited by Phil Ammann and Drew Wilson, with contributions from the staff of Florida Politics.

Staff Reports


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704