Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

Ron DeSantis is in survival mode as Nikki Haley battles Trump in New Hampshire

By 37ci3 Jan 16, 2024



MANCHESTER, NH — Ron DeSantis doesn’t have to win next week’s New Hampshire primary. But he needs Nikki Haley to lose.

This is the view from inside the Florida governor’s inner circle a distant second place showing At the Iowa caucuses on Monday, he allowed DeSantis to say his “ticket was punched” to continue campaigning. Her two-point margin over former UN ambassador Nikki Haley was narrower than her advisers expected, but better than they had feared for a third-place finish.

“He’s staying,” a DeSantis supporter familiar with the campaign’s thinking told NBC News. “If Nikki loses New Hampshire — which is the best chance to win of all the states — and immediately loses her home state of South Carolina, she’ll have to go out and we’ll have a two-man race.”

DeSantis advisers told NBC News that the campaign is busy gathering information and planning a path beyond Iowa through at least the South Carolina primary in late February. At a DeSantis finance team meeting Tuesday morning at the Surety Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, campaign manager James Uthmeier painted a picture of a challenging, but manageable, fundraising environment for the campaign., according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

“It’s going to be tough skiing,” said another DeSantis supporter familiar with the thinking. “The passion is that we have and can muster the resources to get through South Carolina.”

So in an upside-down political season, DeSantis now has to root for former President Donald Trump, who has defeated his rivals. He got 51% of the vote in Iowa – Winning a second straight contest in New Hampshire. No Republican has lost the party’s nomination after winning both states, and Trump’s train shows no signs of an impending mechanical failure.

A Republican fundraiser who supports DeSantis thinks the governor’s campaign will be over after New Hampshire votes are counted next Tuesday.

“It’s a poor performance. Nothing to barely edge out Nikki Haley and fall to 30,” the Packer said of DeSantis’ 21% vote share in Iowa. As for the ticket DeSantis said he punched, the packager said, “It’s an economy class ticket. This is the trainer next to the bathroom.”

What’s more, DeSantis devotes few resources to New Hampshire — a state that was built on purpose Haley is preparing to run against Trump – as he rolled his eyes at South Carolina. His campaign and its allied super PACs had not received any air time in New Hampshire as of Tuesday.

At best, DeSantis is now in full survival mode. At worst, he lives in a fantasyland.

His team is rallying around the idea that he still has a path to the nomination if he can engage in a prolonged one-on-one battle with Trump domestically.

“Nikki Haley spent more money per vote than any other candidate in Iowa to finish a disastrous third — proving that no amount of money can erase her record of leaning left on every issue that matters to conservatives,” said DeSantis campaign communications director Andrew Romeo. “Although it will take a few weeks to get there fully, it will soon be a two-man race.”

It’s a method that some of his allies acknowledge will require DeSantis to stand by during lean times and hope Trump can help defeat Haley.

“My suspicion is that they’re going to try to take some pretty big bites his [Haley] here in New Hampshire because he’s not going to win his home state when he goes down to South Carolina,” said Jason Osborne, the state House Majority Leader and a top DeSantis surrogate in New Hampshire. “He continues to be on track at this point.”

A person with knowledge of the internal discussions said DeSantis has many people around him who are unwilling to tell him the hard truth about the road ahead.

“Now he’s in South Carolina. “The team around him has to say, ‘No, it’s time to buckle down,'” the person said. “This battle is not worth fighting”

Meanwhile, Haley is doing her best to convince voters that DeSantis is toast. He said he would not debate him in New Hampshire unless Trump, who took the stage in a move that worried the Florida governor more than his opponent, did.

Haley has repeatedly characterized the race as a two-man race, and his team has argued that if DeSantis can’t win everything in Iowa — his allies have spent nearly $100 million — there’s no way he can. Haley described both New Hampshire and South Carolina as strong states for her, while DeSantis did not poll well in either.

The reality is that their relative parity in Iowa has put Haley and DeSantis right back where they started, giving Trump a boost by running against each other.

A DeSantis donor told NBC News that the campaign’s fundraising strategy is on life support, but will continue to focus on Florida-based donors who need him as governor, including state lobbyists and clients. It’s a group that rarely gives to federal campaigns, but has tapped into it intensively in recent months as its national fundraising network has been depleted.

“This is not enough [Florida-level] let the money be convincing,” said the donor. “He spent over $100 million and what are they going to get out of these guys? $500,000, maybe? We can make some super PAC money, but it’s not that easy.

“This is the most unusual presidential fundraising strategy I’ve ever seen,” the donor added.

DeSantis went straight to South Carolina after the Iowa caucuses, a rare move and a clear signal of how his campaign views next week’s New Hampshire primary. An ally familiar with the campaign’s thinking said DeSantis will push his staff to South Carolina, giving the Florida governor a “weeklong jump” in the Palmetto State turf as Trump and Haley battle to win New Hampshire.

The hope, the ally said, is that DeSantis will win favor in New Hampshire while “Trump punches Haley” in South Carolina.

Ultimately, DeSantis’ team sees the Iowa results as an endorsement of his candidacy and a rejection of Haley’s.

“Despite spending $24 million on false negative ads against Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley didn’t get the kill shot she so desperately wanted last night,” Romeo said. “He will now be out of the race after failing to win on home soil on February 24.”

DeSantis already has a smaller ground operation in New Hampshire than in Iowa, in part because the state’s voters — including independents who are likely to vote in Republican primaries — are more moderate and less sensitive to DeSantis’ infighting and focus on the culture wars. that animates the far right.

DeSantis fired back at Haley Tuesday morning for saying she would only attend the ABC News-hosted debate in New Hampshire if Trump were on stage. DeSantis said The letter X Haley, who has participated in every Republican debate so far, is “afraid of debate.”

“There’s a reason there’s a two-person race between Donald Trump and Nikki Haley,” Haley spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said. “Because our campaign lives in reality. Ron DeSantis’ campaign lives in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.”

For Haley, meanwhile, New Hampshire represents her best chance to win an early state nomination contest, eroding Trump’s seemingly unstoppable momentum. He has confirmation New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Trump’s lead in the latest public opinion poll. odd numbersAlso, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped out of the race last week He is expected to help Haleybecause his voters are more ideologically attracted to him than to Trump or DeSantis.

That’s why DeSantis’ campaign sees Haley’s stumble in New Hampshire as key to its political math. While a win for him here would effectively eliminate DeSantis from the race, a loss would boost DeSantis’ hopes of surpassing expectations and creating a momentum swing in South Carolina.

“We’re going to focus on South Carolina,” said a DeSantis supporter. “Where we think Ron DeSantis’ record will resonate with a large veteran population and Teddy Roosevelt environmental Republicans.”

In the past, DeSantis has said he helped secure record restoration funding for the Everglades as governor, but environmental issues have not played a role in the Republican nomination race so far.

The DeSantis campaign got a leg up on the former president’s command Monday night when media outlets began predicting Trump had won Iowa before all the votes were cast. The DeSantis campaign soon began framing it as a direct attack on the media outlets, a complaint he is using to return to his 2022 re-election bid.

“They threw everything at us except the kitchen sink,” DeSantis said in a statement after the caucuses. “They spent about $50 million to attack us, which no one in Iowa has ever faced. The media was against us, they wrote our obituary months ago.”

“They called the election before people even voted,” DeSantis continued.

Some DeSantis supporters think that will keep the campaign going, at least for the next few days.

“I think the early call gives them some moral standing to say it [Iowa results] oxen —. The DeSantis donor probably brought his numbers down a few notches. “I couldn’t believe it. People had not even finished their speeches in some places. But, s— happens. You have to deal with it.”

DeSantis tried to undermine Trump’s landslide victory in Iowa, noting that cold temperatures had led to very low voter turnout and that some Democrats in Iowa said they would hold a switch and caucus for Haley.

“His support has been inflated financially and by voters by Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire,” said Slater Bayliss, a DeSantis campaigner and consultant.

“You can’t count on non-Republicans to win the Republican nomination, but especially against Donald Trump,” DeSantis told NBC News Tuesday morning. “How will you be able to compete in this situation?”

The harsh realities forced DeSantis to continually reevaluate what victory meant to him. At one point, he looked like a legitimate threat to Trump in New Hampshire. Now he must hope that voters see him as a legitimate candidate in the state and beyond.

Osborne, a lawmaker from New Hampshire, suggested DeSantis’ tenacity — his decision to stay in the race at the potential cost of his own future ambitions — reflects his commitment to what’s best for the country.

“If all he cared about was himself, he wouldn’t have run,” Osborne said. “But think he has a greater purpose.”





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