After Iowa caucuses, DeSantis to go to South Carolina first, in a jab at Haley

After Iowa caucuses, DeSantis to go to South Carolina first, in a jab at Haley

GOP candidates contend with Iowa winter storm

GOP candidates contend with winter storm in final stretch before Iowa caucuses


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ first stop after the Iowa caucuses on Monday night will be South Carolina — and not New Hampshire, where the next voting contest will be held — a departure from political tradition.

New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary contest is Jan. 23, just eight days after the Iowa caucuses, while South Carolina’s is a month later, on Feb. 24. But DeSantis’ campaign says it accepted an invitation for an event in Greenville, South Carolina, for Tuesday morning, and opted to go there first before heading to New Hampshire for a meet and greet and a town hall Tuesday night.

DeSantis is trying to pressure former South Carolina Gov. and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who leads DeSantis by a sizable margin in early polling in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and remains deadlocked in a race with him for second place in Iowa – where former President Donald Trump has a substantial polling lead over the Republican primary field. 

“For Nikki Haley, it is simply win the South Carolina primary or bust,” one DeSantis campaign adviser said, noting DeSantis’ endorsements from former and current elected officials in the Palmetto state outnumber Haley’s. 

CBS News has reached out to the Haley campaign for comment. 

Ron DeSantis Campaigns For President Across Iowa
 Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign event at The Grass Wagon on January 13, 2024 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. 

Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

Haley has referred to South Carolina as the state that “brings it home” for her campaign (and has joked that New Hampshire will “correct” Iowa). 

The leapfrogging travel from DeSantis comes as the viability of DeSantis’ campaign has come into question – especially if he underperforms or badly loses to Trump in Iowa. 

“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,” said DeSantis communications director Andrew Romeo. “We hope Donald Trump is ready for a long, scrappy campaign as we work to share Ron DeSantis’ vision across America.”

For the duration of his campaign, DeSantis has spent nearly all of his time in Iowa: he’s held events in all 99 counties, and his campaign says he’s done over 240 events in the state. But his trips to New Hampshire have dropped off since August, with just eight trips to the state since Aug. 19, according to a CBS News analysis. One New Hampshire official with the DeSantis campaign said the governor is still “all in on New Hampshire.” 

Some DeSantis supporters saw DeSantis’ post-Iowa South Carolina detour as a positive move. 

“It shows conviction. Conviction the campaign’s not going away,” said Richard Paddock, a New Hampshire voter who supports DeSantis and is coming to Iowa to knock doors for him on Monday. “He’s got eight days up here [in New Hampshire]. We’ve got to get a bounce out of Iowa and we’ve got to do something to shake up the race.”

Dave Wilson, a GOP strategist and former president of the Palmetto Family Council, said the move to go to South Carolina first “signals to Nikki Haley that this race is not over.” He pointed to the location of Greenville specifically for the stop as a sign that DeSantis is looking to gain traction in northern South Carolina, where there are more conservative evangelical voters “who are looking for a DeSantis style of leadership on cultural issues.”

“DeSantis does not go to South Carolina first unless he is recognizing the fact that he has got to energize a group of people behind him and knock Nikki Haley off her game,” he said. “Doing this is really making it clear he is not seeing himself as out of the running yet, as some people are saying he might be.”

Aaron Navarro

Aaron Navarro is a CBS News digital reporter covering Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign and the 2024 election. He was previously an associate producer for the CBS News political unit in the 2021 and 2022 election cycles.

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