Is Donald Trump trying to knock Ron DeSantis out in New Hampshire before the Florida governor even gets in the race? That is what some political pros see at work behind the former president’s early emphasis on the Granite State.
On Monday came news that MAGA, Inc., the Super PAC supporting Trump’s 2024 GOP primary bid, made its first broadcast TV buy of the campaign, part of a $1.26 million push in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
The two ads, which will air on WMUR, both target DeSantis over “voting to cut Social Security or Medicare,” a reference to then-Congressman DeSantis’ vote for a GOP plan to slow federal spending and reform entitlements.
“As career politician Ron DeSantis desperately tries to earn support in our first in the nation primary state, New Hampshire voters deserve to know the real truth about his record,” said Karoline Leavitt, spokeswoman for MAGA Inc. and the 2022 GOP nominee in the First Congressional District race.
An hour later came news Trump will participate in a CNN town hall at St. Anselm College on Wednesday, May 10. It will be hosted by “CNN This Morning” anchor Kaitlan Collins and “will feature the former president taking questions from New Hampshire Republicans and undeclared voters who plan to vote in the 2024 GOP presidential primary,” the network reports.
Trump’s decision to wade into a town hall environment — hosted by an unfriendly media outlet and certain to feature combative questions — is interesting given the Trump campaign’s reluctance to participate in Republican National Committee-sponsored primary debates this summer. By appearing on CNN, Trump gets the stage to himself, and he can target DeSantis without taking return fire from the Florida governor.
Veteran Granite State GOP strategist Michael Dennehy says it looks like Trump’s strategy is to kick DeSantis while he’s down and is smart politics.
“And it’s a brilliant strategy, to be honest. Trump has 100 percent name ID and a good image with core Republicans. He just has to be super careful not to go over the top negative, possibly creating a backlash.
“That, by the way, is likely what Nikki Haley and the rest of the field are hoping will happen. Haley wants a food fight at the top that allows a third candidate to enter the fray.”
Many pundits believe New Hampshire could be the most DeSantis-friendly state of the four early contests (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina), and Trump has certainly been giving it a disproportionate amount of attention. The May 10 town hall will be Trump’s third stop in the Granite State this year.
Veteran GOP communications professional Alicia Preston Xanthopolous said the attention on DeSantis is a Trump campaign “tell.”
“I think they’re far more concerned with a DeSantis candidacy than they let on,” she told NHJournal. “Their spokesperson floods Twitter daily, attacking and mocking DeSantis. They’re spending a ton of money to diminish him. There has to be a reason for that.
“I also think it’s a completely poor and childish strategy they are invoking. These ‘mockumentary’ ads won’t earn one vote for Trump, they’re a turnoff, but they’re increasing name ID for DeSantis. He’s the Governor of Florida, not a household name. Everyone who votes isn’t a political junkie.”