The Ron DeSantis campaign wants Granite State Republicans to know reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated.
“We’re in good shape,” House Majority Leader Rep. Jason Osborne (R-Auburn), a DeSantis supporter, told NHJournal on Monday. “It’s good in the sense that we’ve got two jobs to do — deal with Iowa and deal with New Hampshire. They are finishing Iowa first, but we’re going to see a lot of DeSantis in New Hampshire.”
The Florida governor’s poll numbers in New Hampshire have been sliding for months, from around 23 percent in the RealClearPolitics average to just over 10 percent today. And it is Nikki Haley, not DeSantis, who has been getting most of the rave reviews and campaign buzz from the three presidential debates.
Team DeSantis argues that when more candidates entered the race earlier this year, the non-Trump vote was destined to be divided, and DeSantis’s artificial high had to fall. But now that candidates like Sen. Tim Scott are dropping out, the consolidation process will bring more supporters to DeSantis.
His campaign attempted to emphasize that message on Monday by releasing a new list of Granite State endorsements, including state Reps. Joe Guthrie (R-Hampstead), Travis O’Hara (R-Belmont), and Walter “Terry” Spilsbury (R-Charlestown). That brings the total of state-level DeSantis endorsements to 100, the campaign told NHJournal.
“Republicans need a leader who can win again,” O’Hara said in a statement. “From resisting Dr. Fauci’s COVID lockdowns to expanding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, Gov. DeSantis’s strong conservative record separates him from the rest of the field, and that’s why I’m proud to endorse Ron DeSantis for president.”
Haley supporters responded that DeSantis’ campaign is fading while theirs is on a roll. On Monday, Haley’s team announced a $10 million ad buy in Iowa and New Hampshire beginning the first week in December.
“Nikki Haley’s momentum and path to victory are clear,” said campaign manager Betsy Ankney. “The same can’t be said for Ron DeSantis, who, even with a decent showing in Iowa, can’t afford a cup of coffee at the Red Arrow Diner in New Hampshire and is a mere tourist in South Carolina.”
That was a reference to reports the pro-DeSantis “Never Back Down” PAC has recently shifted more than $1 million in ad buys in Iowa and New Hampshire from November to January 2024.
The pro-Haley PAC, SFA, Inc., released a memo noting the DeSantis spending shift. “Never Back Down has now canceled ad buys in Iowa and New Hampshire during November. During the week of November 13 through November 19 alone, they have canceled a total of $700K,” SFA wrote.
Team DeSantis insists no spending has been cut, and it touts the $1 million raised in the 24 hours after his last debate performance. Besides, it argues, DeSantis is still the only candidate who can win one-on-one against Trump.
“Ron DeSantis can beat Donald Trump, and Nikki Haley can’t,” Osborne said. “Where are Nikki Haley’s votes going to go if she drops out? They’re not going to Trump. They’re either going to come to DeSantis or what –maybe sit it out? But if DeSantis drops out, many of his voters will go to Trump.
“DeSantis is the only candidate who can win the coalition of voters who want an alternative to Trump,” Osborne said.
Osborne is on message. Also on Monday, DeSantis campaign communications director Andrew Romeo pointed CBS News to a Des Moines Register poll showing 41 percent of Trump voters have DeSantis as their second choice, while only 16 percent say they’d choose Haley.
“It’s clear there is no way Nikki Haley can beat Donald Trump, and every dollar spent on her candidacy is an in-kind to the Trump campaign,” Romeo said.
Meanwhile, Osborne said he is getting nothing but positive feedback from Granite State Republicans. “Nobody’s telling me they hate DeSantis. Everybody likes him, but some Republicans who like him are saying, ‘I’ve got to stick with Trump,’” Osborne said.
One common complaint from local Republicans picked up by NHJournal, however, is that DeSantis is spending a lot more time focused on Iowa than New Hampshire. For example, his campaign has moved three of its top national officials to Iowa this week to shore up the campaign there, including Romeo.
“In all, the campaign is sending roughly 20 people, or one-third, of its Tallahassee-based national staff to the state,” Politico reported.
“It seems like he’s given up on New Hampshire,” one Haley supporter said on background. “Putting all his chips on Iowa and pulling money from New Hamshire TV…”
Not so, said Osborne.
“I expect to see DeSantis here for a good 14 days before Iowa,” he said, “and I’ve been assured we’re going to see a lot more of him.”
DeSantis supporter and former state Rep. Melissa Blasek, who comes from the more conservative wing of the GOP, said it is time for Granite State Republicans to get serious about their real options if they don’t want Trump to be the nominee.
“It’s incredibly clear that Haley has zero path to the nomination. She has reached her ceiling of ‘Never Trump/moderates’ who would need to consolidate behind DeSantis to beat Trump. Her only path forward is to clear the road for Trump while building her own brand,” Blasek said, “or dropping out to topple Trump.
“She’s made it clear she doesn’t like Trump, so one can only surmise that the establishment she represents is terrified that a disruptor like DeSantis who is actually effective — unlike Trump — could win.”
A list of the new DeSantis endorsements:
State Representative Joe Guthrie (R-Hampstead) – Rockingham District 15
State Representative Travis O’Hara (R-Belmont) – Belknap District 4
State Representative Walter “Terry” Spilsbury (R-Charlestown) – Sullivan District 3
Former State Representative Tim Comerford (R-Fremont)
Former State Representative Linda Rea Camarota (R-Bedford)
Scott Maltzie, Former Merrimack County GOP Chair
Richard Merkt, Former Cheshire County GOP Chair
Jude Augusta, NH GOP Seacoast Activist
Dennis Hogan, Former Hillsborough County Attorney
Lisa Withrow, Salem Town Councilor
Skip Gilman, Rochester City Councilor
Sarah Eames, Rochester Ward 4 Moderator
Donna Bogan, Former Rochester City Councilor
Ray Gorman, Coos County Commissioner and Colebrook Selectman
Marilyn Huston, Former Cheshire County GOP Chair
Bill Beauregard, Former Cheshire County GOP Chair
Robert Theberge, Coos County Commissioner
Thomas Estey, Owner of Estey’s Country Store in Londonderry