DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Ron DeSantis is taking his battle with Nikki Haley directly to her home state, planning to head straight to South Carolina — which holds the first GOP votes in the South — after Monday’s Iowa caucuses.
His campaign said Friday that the Florida governor will leave Iowa after a caucus night party on Monday and fly to South Carolina, where he will appear at a campaign event in Greenville, in the state’s largely conservative northwestern corner. That’s instead of immediately going to New Hampshire, which is the next state on the GOP calendar with its Jan. 23 primary.
For months, Haley and DeSantis have been locked in a battle for second place in Iowa, which has been led by former President Donald Trump.
DeSantis’ campaign says the move is intended to send a message to Haley that he’s intent on performing well in her home state. Advisors also point out that DeSantis has several times more endorsements from current and former elected officials in Haley’s home state than she does.
The announcement also reflects Haley is doing better in New Hampshire than DeSantis. A CNN/UNH poll conducted in New Hampshire this week suggested that Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador, could be approaching Trump’s top spot in the state. About 4 in 10 likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire choose Trump, while about one−third pick Haley.
“This campaign is built for the long haul. We intend to compete for every single available delegate in New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and then into March," DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo told AP. “That begins on Monday’s Iowa Caucus, and the next day we will kick our campaign into overdrive in both South Carolina and New Hampshire.”
Traditionally, campaigns head straight to New Hampshire to stump there before moving on to the states that follow. After Nevada’s GOP caucus in early February, South Carolina’s Republican primary is next on Feb. 24.
After his event in South Carolina, DeSantis plans to fly on to New Hampshire, where he’s scheduled to participate in a CNN town hall Tuesday night.
Haley has promised to perform well in the first rounds of votes before taking the campaign to her "sweet state of South Carolina, and we’ll finish it.” Trump has maintained popularity in South Carolina since his 2016 primary win helped propel him to the nomination. He’s endorsed in this year’s election by Gov. Henry McMaster, Sen. Lindsey Graham and several U.S. House members.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press