DeSantis Leaves New Hampshire, Centers Campaign on South Carolina

DeSantis Leaves New Hampshire, Centers Campaign on South Carolina

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Running third in polls, Mr DeSantis has decamped to South Carolina, aiming to beat Nikki Haley in her home state and force a showdown with President Trump.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has stopped campaigning in New Hampshire, shifting his attention and resources to South Carolina in an attempt to deal a lethal blow to Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign.

Mr. DeSantis placed second in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15, besting former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley but finishing a disappointing 30 percentage points behind former President Donald Trump.

In New Hampshire, Mr. DeSantis’s polling fell into the single digits a month ago even as Ms. Haley’s rose.

Mr. DeSantis’s decision to fly directly to South Carolina rather than New Hampshire after the Iowa contest gave a clue to his decision to bypass the Granite State. That was confirmed a day later as his campaign began moving staff members from New Hampshire to South Carolina.

The candidate did appear in a televised town hall meeting in New Hampshire on the evening of Jan. 16 but has held a full schedule of camping events in the Palmetto State in the days since.

He is expected to return to New Hampshire on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23 for the primary election.The DeSantis campaign showed great promise a year ago, even before the candidate announced his intention to seek the White House. During the winter of 2023, he sometimes polled within 10 percentage points of President Trump, who opened his campaign in Nov. 2022.

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By late May, when Mr. DeSantis launched his bid, his polling had fallen to around 22 percent, eventually plateauing in the low teens.

Despite aggressive campaigning in Iowa, Mr. DeSantis was eclipsed by Ms. Haley in Iowa polling about a month ago. He finished ahead of her in the caucuses by just 2 percentage points.

Immediately after the caucuses, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy dropped out of the race and endorsed President Trump, joining him on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

Though Mr. Ramaswamy was polling in the single digits, many of his followers were expected to switch their allegiance to President Trump.

Ms. Haley refused to appear in a scheduled Jan. 18 debate with Mr. DeSantis if President Trump did not also appear. President Trump has declined to participate in all Republican debates so far in this election cycle.

Referencing President Trump, Ms. Haley told CNN, “That’s who I’m running against. That’s who I want.”

The move denied Mr. DeSantis a key opportunity to address voters in the runup to the New Hampshire primary election, though both candidates appeared in televised town hall meetings this week.

President Trump has continued to harvest endorsements, trickling their announcement during the primary season.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a former candidate in this race, endorsed the former president on Jan. 14, the day before the Iowa caucuses.

Twenty-six sitting senators have endorsed President Trump, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Jan. 17 and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), another former candidate in this cycle, on Jan. 19.Mr. DeSantis has said he is still in the race to win, but some recent remarks hint at the difficulty of his current position.

“If we’d won Iowa, we would have been in a great spot,” Mr. DeSantis told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Jan. 18.

“You know, coming in second gives us the ticket to continue, but I told my people this from the very beginning. I don’t want to be VP … I’m in it to win it, and at some point, you know, if that’s not working out for you, like I recognize that this isn’t a vanity thing for me,” he added.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to his supporters after finding out the 2024 Iowa caucuses results at the Sheraton Hotel in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 15, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to his supporters after finding out the 2024 Iowa caucuses results at the Sheraton Hotel in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 15, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The DeSantis campaign focused on in-person events over big media in Iowa. Mr. DeSantis said he does not regret the time spent meeting Iowans but admits that not including more media was a mistake.

“I came in not really doing as much media,” he told Mr. Hewitt. “I should have just been blanketing. I should have gone on all the corporate shows. I should have gone on everything. I started doing that as we got into the end of the summer, and we did it. But we had an opportunity, I think, to come out of the gate and do that.”

Never Back Down, the PAC supporting the DeSantis campaign, laid off an unspecified number of staff members on Jan. 17. Others were transferred to other states.

The official campaign strategy now is to focus on beating Ms. Haley in her home state, which is seen as more conservative than New Hampshire.

“Nikki Haley cannot compete with Donald Trump [in New Hampshire]. And the fact that she can’t do it there, she can’t do it anywhere. She’s certainly not going to do it in South Carolina,” Mr. DeSantis said.

A loss there would force her from the race, according to a campaign staffer. “Nikki Haley couldn’t buy herself the kill shot she so desperately wanted last night [in Iowa], and now she will be out of this race after failing to win her home state on February 24,” Andrew Romeo, communications director for the DeSantis campaign said in a Jan. 17 statement.

Asked if he had the money and the staff to remain in the contest through the end of March, Mr. DeSantis told Mr. Hewitt, “Oh, yes on that—100 percent. We can do that.”

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