DeSantis Faces Huge Scrutiny in Republican Primary Race: Is It Over?

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  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 01/17/2024
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is being scrutinized regarding his strategy for the Republican presidential primary after coming in second place in Iowa and now preparing for tougher competitions in the upcoming early nominating states.  

On Monday night, the Florida governor secured a second-place position, with former President Trump expected to take the lead. However, DeSantis's performance was considered underwhelming, particularly considering the significant investment his campaign and super PAC made in the Hawkeye State. In addition, the governor is encountering challenges in New Hampshire and South Carolina, as most polls indicate that he is currently in third place, behind former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. 

"In practical terms, the day after New Hampshire will quickly become late," commented Jim Merrill, a Republican strategist based in New Hampshire. I believe the upcoming event will be open to all individuals except for Trump, including Haley. We need to have a clear understanding of the way forward. 

Trump emerged as the clear victor in the Iowa GOP caucuses, securing a majority of the vote. Several news outlets declared the former president as the winner of the race within an hour of the caucusing starting. This highlights the strong support the former president has among Republican voters in the state. However, this early declaration has faced criticism from the DeSantis campaign and certain journalists. However, when addressing his supporters in Des Moines, DeSantis exuded a sense of assurance regarding his campaign, stating that they had made significant progress in Iowa. 

"They invested nearly $50 million in criticizing us," he informed his supporters. The media was not supportive; they were already predicting our downfall months in advance. The election was called before people had the opportunity to vote. 

Attention is now focused on the Granite State, as recent surveys from Decision Desk HQ and The Hill reveal that Trump holds a 41 percent lead, followed by Haley at 33 percent and DeSantis at 6 percent.  As a show of support for the Florida governor's popularity in New Hampshire, DeSantis wasted no time and promptly traveled to South Carolina the day after Iowa. However, he had plans to visit New Hampshire on Tuesday for a series of events. The DeSantis campaign has projected that in the coming weeks, the GOP primary will likely narrow down to a competition between Trump and DeSantis.  

According to Andrew Romeo, the communications director for DeSantis's campaign, Nikki Haley's spending per vote in Iowa was higher than any other candidate. Despite this, her third-place finish highlights her consistent tendency to align with the left on key conservative issues, which cannot be overlooked regardless of the amount of money spent.  

Although it may require a little more time, eventually this will become a partnership between two individuals. Despite spending a significant amount of money on negative ads targeting Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley was unable to achieve the desired outcome she hoped for last night. As a result, she will be exiting the race after failing to secure a victory in her home state on February 24," he stated. In New Hampshire, supporters of DeSantis are highlighting what they believe to be inaccuracies in the polling data from the state. In recent days, it has been observed that Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy have withdrawn from the race.

"The supporters of Christie and Vivek are currently active." New Hampshire House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R), who is supporting DeSantis, believes that a majority of those will come our way. "Christie was the only person who vigorously criticized Trump in a manner that set him apart from everyone else." Why would any of those individuals then support the candidate who is vying to become Trump's VP or secretary of State?" he continued, criticizing Haley.

"And then there are the Vivek people, who tend to lean towards libertarianism," Osborne remarked. "Why would they support Lockdown Don when they have the option to support Freedom Ron?" Contrary to popular belief, the arguments presented go against the notion that Christie supporters would be more inclined to support Haley. In addition, Ramaswamy has publicly supported Trump and is scheduled to make an appearance at a campaign rally, which is seen as a strong message to his own followers.

"It is widely recognized that the segment of the party that Haley attracts is far from sufficient to challenge Donald Trump," Osborne remarked. "In the meantime, Ron DeSantis has consistently proven himself to be a unifying force within the party, bringing together various factions."

Some DeSantis supporters believe that Haley's choice to limit her debates to only Trump or President Biden, thereby excluding any potential debates with DeSantis, might work in the governor's favor.

"I strongly disagree with that." "It's a New Hampshire tradition," remarked Kate Day, a staunch supporter of DeSantis and the former chair of Cheshire County (N.H.) Republicans. "We attend candidate events and then the ultimate goal is to witness the debate."

According to Dennehy, a GOP strategist from New Hampshire, there is no anticipation for DeSantis to withdraw from the race. He believes that DeSantis's presence in the Republican primary actually benefits Nikki Haley. "If Ron DeSantis decided to withdraw from the race, all of his votes would be directed towards Donald Trump," he explained. Therefore, in order for Nikki Haley to secure a victory, it is crucial for her to significantly boost the voter turnout among undeclared, independent voters in New Hampshire. It is important for her to maintain the support of the Republicans she has, so dividing the Republican voter base with Ron DeSantis is a strategic move at this time.

However, there are Republicans who have expressed serious doubts about the ability of either DeSantis or Haley to challenge Trump's position. Chip Felkel, a GOP consultant from South Carolina and a critic of Trump, expressed his strong disapproval of both candidates for not aggressively challenging Trump. He went as far as to say that he believes neither of them stands a chance.

"This game revolves around expectations," Felkel stated. It's all about surpassing expectations and building momentum. It's quite evident that the expectations were for them to lose by a significant margin, given the percentages of 21 and 19 percent of the vote. And that doesn't really provide you with momentum, regardless of their claims. 


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