In a bold strategic move, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has redirected the focus of his campaign team to South Carolina, opting to scale back efforts in New Hampshire despite the risk of a third-place finish. Acknowledging a lackluster performance in Iowa, DeSantis made this decision well ahead of the state's February 24 primary, recognizing that he currently polls in the single digits against both former President Donald Trump and potential rival Nikki Haley in New Hampshire.
— Julia Johnson (@juliaajohnson_) January 19, 2024
The shift in DeSantis's strategy underscores the perception that New Hampshire is evolving into a two-person race between Haley and Trump. While not completely conceding the state to Haley, DeSantis's reduced presence in New Hampshire could inadvertently benefit Trump, especially considering more than 60% of DeSantis voters view Trump as their second choice.
Although DeSantis's absence may not significantly impact New Hampshire, given his modest polling numbers, the move is crucial for Haley, who relies on DeSantis to perform well in the state. Despite the prospect of New Hampshire favoring Haley due to its higher share of independent voters, recent polls indicate that she still trails Trump by approximately 13 points.
DeSantis seems to be banking on his appeal to the more conservative electorate in South Carolina, despite it being Haley's home state. While Haley currently leads DeSantis in South Carolina, Trump maintains a substantial lead at 52%. DeSantis's calculated risk aligns with a larger strategy, possibly positioning himself for a direct confrontation with Trump after upcoming primaries in New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.
New Hampshire Republican strategist Matthew Bartlett suggests that DeSantis may be preparing for a one-on-one showdown with Trump down the line. In this stage of the race, DeSantis appears willing to let Trump secure victories in the upcoming contests, betting on his chances to challenge Trump head-on in the future. Although a risky strategy, candidates like DeSantis must take bold moves in a field still heavily influenced by Trump's dominance, even if the odds seem unfavorable.