MANCHESTER, N.H. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis views a new endorsement for former President Donald Trump as a “major blow” to another Republican presidential nomination rival – Nikki Haley.
And DeSantis, in an interview with Fox News at Saint Anselm College on the outskirts of New Hampshire’s largest city, said he would return to the Granite State ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary after a weekend campaign swing in South Carolina.
DeSantis was interviewed a couple of hours after Fox News confirmed that Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina would endorse Trump at a campaign rally Friday night in Concord, New Hampshire.
“I actually thought Scott had already endorsed him,” DeSantis said. “I do think that that is a blow to Nikki Haley.”
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, holds a news conference at Saint Anselm College, on Jan. 19, 2024 in Manchester, New Hampshire (Fox News – Paul Steinhauser)
Both the former president, who’s the commanding front-runner in the GOP nomination race, and Haley – the former South Carolina governor who later served as U.N. ambassador in the Trump administration – called Scott in recent days as they both tried to secure Scott’s endorsement.
Scott’s backing of Trump, whom the senator rarely criticized on the campaign trail during his White House run, is the latest major endorsement for the former president in the state that holds the first southern primary in the GOP nomination race.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and Sen. Lindsey Graham have long supported Trump.
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The state’s Feb. 24 Republican presidential primary is the next major contest in the Republican schedule following the New Hampshire primary. The contest is winner-take-all, which means the victor in the Palmetto State will capture all 50 Republican delegates at stake.
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Portsmouth, N.H., Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Trump scored a massive victory in Monday night’s low turnout Iowa caucuses, with DeSantis edging out Haley for a distant second place. But the polls in New Hampshire indicate Trump hovering around 50% support, double digits ahead of Haley, with DeSantis a very distant third in the single digits.
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Haley has called DeSantis “invisible” in New Hampshire as she frames the primary battle as a two-candidate race between herself and Trump.
DeSantis on Friday argued that “the whole Haley thing, I think, is falling apart now.”
He emphasized that in New Hampshire, Haley has spent an inordinate amount of money. And he argued that her efforts in the Granite State, where moderates and independent voters play an influential role in the state’s storied primary, were over the top.
“I was talking to someone that said they got in one day seven Nikki Haley mailers. It’s like, well, wait a minute. Like the first six aren’t going to get you to vote for that magic seven all of a sudden. So some of this is just overkill, he said.
Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley chats with guests and customers while visiting Newfields Country Store during a campaign stop, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, in Newfields, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
The Florida governor campaigns Saturday and Sunday in South Carolina, and there’s speculation he wouldn’t return to New Hampshire ahead of Tuesday’s primary.
But DeSantis told Fox News “I think our plan is to come fly back Sunday night here from South Carolina.”
“But look, South Carolina’s important,” he added. “This is Nikki Haley’s home state. She obviously can’t beat Donald Trump there.”
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DeSantis dismissed the notion that he was looking for an exit ramp from the 2024 campaign to potentially run again in four years.
“2028. That’s so far away. I mean, in political time,” he said. “I’m focused on 2024. I mean, we we’ve got to get our act together as a party. And I think the Iowa results really should have, should be alarm bells for the party because the turnout was so anemic.”
Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.