Ron DeSantis to prioritize South Carolina, leave New Hampshire in week before its primary

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is moving a majority of his campaign staff to South Carolina, and will be leaving Wednesday night after two events in New Hampshire to head to his home state, according to a senior DeSantis campaign official. 

On Friday, he will attend a ceremony for Florida Supreme Court Justice Meredith Sasso, who DeSantis appointed in May. He will then attend campaign events in South Carolina on Saturday and Sunday. 

His schedule for next Monday and Tuesday, the day of the New Hampshire primary, is still unclear.

The move to prioritize South Carolina — and essentially forgo a heavy week of campaigning in the Granite State in the week before the primary —  comes after two planned debates DeSantis accepted to attend in New Hampshire (CNN and ABC/WMUR) were canceled

The goal from DeSantis’ campaign is to put pressure on former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to win her home state, implying she would leave the race if she does not, as DeSantis’ campaign has a longer term goal of getting the GOP contest to a “two person” race between DeSantis and Trump. 

APTOPIX Election 2024 DeSantis
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis greets supporters during a caucus night party, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall / AP

“When Nikki Haley fails to win her home state, she’ll be finished and this will be a two-person race – and her donors are starting to come to the same conclusion,” a senior DeSantis campaign official said, referencing CNBC reporting about pressure from Haley’s donors. 

“While they continue to have buyers’ remorse over backing a bubble wrapped candidate who can’t beat Trump, we’re wasting no time in taking the fight directly to Haley on her home turf,” they added.

DeSantis has not spent much time in the first-in-the-nation state of New Hampshire compared to Iowa, where DeSantis invested their time and energy but ultimately placed a distant second to Trump in Monday night’s caucuses. After the Iowa caucuses, DeSantis held an event in Greenville, South Carolina and was slated to attend an event in Claremont, New Hampshire hosted by his super PAC “Never Back Down,” though that was canceled due to heavy snow and unsafe weather conditions. 

Another event scheduled for Wednesday morning in Jackson, New Hampshire, also hosted by his super PAC, was canceled due to weather conditions. 

The Florida governor has also been unable to register any growth in the polling in New Hampshire in recent months. A December CBS News poll of New Hampshire found DeSantis at 11% in the state, trailing Haley and Trump. 

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