HAMPTON, N.H. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spent part of Wednesday at this seaside community along the New Hampshire coast, making a pitch to voters six days ahead of the state’s Republican presidential primary.
“I’m asking for your support on Tuesday,” DeSantis told the crowd as he looked ahead to the New Hampshire primary, the first in the GOP nominating calendar and second overall contest after this week’s Iowa caucuses.
But as the Florida governor was speaking to supporters and undecided voters, Fox News confirmed that the DeSantis campaign was in the process of moving the majority of its staff from Iowa to South Carolina rather than New Hampshire.
DeSantis came in a distant second in Iowa to former President Trump, the commanding front-runner in the GOP nomination race who crushed his rivals as he won 51% of the vote in Monday’s caucuses. DeSantis, who had spent most of his time and resources in Iowa, narrowly edged former United Nations Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for second place.
CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST POLL NUMBERS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE’S REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, speaks at an event in Hampton, New Hampshire, on Jan. 17, 2024. (Fox News/Paul Steinhauser)
But with polls indicating Haley a strong second to Trump and DeSantis a distant third in the single digits in New Hampshire — where moderates predominate and independent voters play a crucial role in the state’s storied presidential primary — the Florida governor is concentrating his efforts in the much more conservative South Carolina. The state holds the first southern contest in the Republican schedule on Feb. 24.
TRUMP, HALEY, TURN UP VOLUME ON EACH OTHER AS GOP PRESIDENTIAL SLUGFEST MOVES TO NEW HAMPSHIRE
The governor’s team sees the move to South Carolina as a chance to take down Haley on her home court and knock her out of the race.
“When Nikki Haley fails to win her home state, she’ll be finished and this will be a two-person race,” DeSantis campaign communications director Andrew Romeo said in a statement. “We’re wasting no time in taking the fight directly to Haley on her home turf.”
Republican presidential candidate and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley listens to 10-year-old Hannah Kesselering during a campaign stop in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, on Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
A source in DeSantis’ political orbit told Fox News that “it’s all about South Carolina.”
“They’re not completely giving up on New Hampshire. They are pursuing both states, but they’re really looking ahead to South Carolina,” the source added.
DeSantis was headed home to Florida later on Wednesday. He will return to New Hampshire for at least three stops on Friday before campaigning Saturday and Sunday in South Carolina. He may return to New Hampshire on Monday, on the eve of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
“He doesn’t want to write off New Hampshire publicly because that would mean his campaign is over,” longtime Republican consultant David Carney – who’s neutral in the 2024 nomination race – told Fox News. “They’ve got to go somewhere. They’ve still got more money to spend. So, they’ll make the case to go to South Carolina.”
IOWA’S OVER. NOW GOP PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY FIGHT TURNS TO NEW HAMPSHIRE
Carney, a veteran of numerous presidential campaigns and a New Hampshire resident, said that “it’s a good strategy – see what you can get out of South Carolina. And pretend you are campaigning in New Hampshire. If you’re absent for the entire week, your campaign is dead.”
Republican strategist Matthew Bartlett, who splits his time between New Hampshire and the nation’s capital, said DeSantis is “going through the motions. I applaud him and his team for doing it, but I think they would have been far better served doing this in the long hot summer rather than the waning days before the New Hampshire primary when the cake is baked.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, poses for a photo with a supporter in Hampton, New Hampshire, on Jan. 17, 2024. (Fox News/Paul Steinhauser)
The two events DeSantis held in New Hampshire on Wednesday were organized by the aligned super PAC Never Back Down, which has taken over many of the traditional responsibilities of a presidential campaign.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
But as DeSantis was on the campaign trail on Tuesday, Never Back Down trimmed operations, laying off some staff, including nearly the entire ‘war room’ team, Fox News confirmed. The news was first reported by the New York Times.
Making his case to New Hampshire voters in Hampton, DeSantis didn’t address the new emphasis being placed on South Carolina. And he didn’t take questions from reporters after the event.
Neither the DeSantis campaign nor aligned super PACs have run TV spots in New Hampshire in two months, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact.
While the South Carolina strategy may allow DeSantis to live to fight another day, it plays into Haley’s argument that the GOP nomination is becoming a two-person race.
“When you look at how we’re doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina and beyond, I can safely say tonight Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race,” Haley said in West Des Moines on Monday night after finishing third in the Hawkeye State.
Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.