Ron DeSantis to shift resources and campaign in South Carolina in week before New Hampshire primary

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

DeSantis will be back in New Hampshire on Friday, to attend multiple events hosted by his super PAC, Never Back Down, that were added to his schedule, according to a PAC official. 

He will then attend campaign events in South Carolina on Saturday and Sunday, CBS News has learned exclusively.

His exact schedule for next Monday and Tuesday, the day of the New Hampshire primary, is still unclear. DeSantis told reporters after a Wednesday event in Derry, New Hampshire, that he would “probably” campaign Sunday in the state as well, and will “obviously be back through the primary day.”

The move to shift resources to South Carolina 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. 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. 

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.

In response, Haley campaign spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said, “South Carolina is a great state. We hope they enjoy their vacation time here.”

DeSantis has not spent much time in the first-in-the-nation state of New Hampshire compared to Iowa, where the DeSantis campaign 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. 

Asked Wednesday what a realistic goal for him in New Hampshire is, DeSantis replied, “delegates.” New Hampshire allocates its 22 delegates proportionally based on the statewide vote, with candidates needing to meet a 10% threshold to be awarded delegates. 

“I want to pick up delegates. Everyone that goes out and votes for me is gonna help me get delegates and that’s what we want to do. That’s that’s the nature of it,” DeSantis said. 

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