DeSantis Is Planning 'Hail Mary' Effort in SC

His campaign's best hope could be beating Nikki Haley in her own state
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2024 10:45 AM CST
DeSantis Is Switching Focus to South Carolina
Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign event on Wednesday in Hampton, New Hampshire.   (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

With little hope of following up his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses with second place in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, Ron DeSantis is aiming to push Nikki Haley into third place in her home state. Sources tell the New York Times that after DeSantis lost to Trump by more than 30 points in Iowa, the Florida governor shifted most of his campaign staff to South Carolina, which holds its GOP primary on Feb. 24, and will "largely bypass" New Hampshire. Polls put DeSantis at around 5% in New Hampshire, far behind Haley and Trump. Haley was governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017, and DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo says the campaign is "taking the fight directly to Haley on her home turf," CNN reports.

"When Nikki Haley fails to win her home state, she'll be finished and this will be a two-person race," Romeo adds. A spokesperson for DeSantis' super PAC, Never Back Down, tells CBS News that DeSantis will spend Thursday in Florida and campaign in New Hampshire Friday, but then will spend the weekend campaigning in South Carolina. Two New Hampshire debates DeSantis had planned to take part in were canceled after Haley pulled out, saying she wouldn't take part in more GOP debates without Trump.

Slater Bayliss, a member of the DeSantis campaign's finance committee, tells Politico that the Florida governor's "military service and environmental record should resonate very well" with voters in South Carolina, though he's currently in third place. A DeSantis fundraiser who asked to remain anonymous tells Politico that while it might have been a good idea for DeSantis to quit the race after Iowa, they can see the logic of the "Hail Mary" attempt to defeat Haley in her home state. DeSantis' super PAC, meanwhile, has laid off staff members and cut back operations in states including Nevada, according to the Times' sources. (More Ron DeSantis 2024 stories.)

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