HAMPTON, New Hampshire—Just days before the New Hampshire primary, Ron DeSantis is barely going through the motions.
Thus far, his week of campaigning in the state has amounted to delivering a scarcely altered stump speech at a biker bar, a radio hit where he reflected on his campaign’s failed media strategy, and promptly flying back to Florida.
If this is the candidate who had “punched his ticket” out of Iowa, as DeSantis claimed Monday night, he certainly isn’t acting like it.
Worse still for DeSantis, his competitors aren’t acting like it either.
Trail of DeStruction
At a critical phase of the Republican presidential contest, DeSantis appears to be so irrelevant in the minds of Donald Trump and Nikki Haley that both candidates signaled this week they’re now running as if the Florida governor isn’t even in the race at all.
Factor in staff layoffs at his allied super PAC and the situation appears so grim for DeSantis that both Haley and Trump’s campaigns have serious doubts the Florida governor will even continue the charade before votes are cast in New Hampshire on Tuesday—let alone after.
“I think there’s a 50/50 chance that he gets out,” a senior Trump adviser told The Daily Beast, speculating on whether DeSantis would stay in before the New Hampshire primary. “And the odds aren’t really in his favor.”
The former president and his allies are, clearly, far more preoccupied with Haley, who is polling close to them in New Hampshire and is poised to mop up whatever GOP support remains for a Trump alternative. The Trump campaign even took the unusual step of blasting out to the media prepared lines of attack on Haley in advance of the former president’s campaign appearance on Wednesday.
Campaigning in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Trump indeed escalated his attacks on Haley, hoping to squash her upstart bid. By comparison, he practically left DeSantis untouched. The former president’s surrogates are doing the same, making the rounds on TV and concentrating their fire on Haley.
Although she finished about 2,000 votes behind DeSantis in Iowa, Haley is behaving very much as if the primary is a “two-person race,” as she proclaimed on Monday night. As a Haley adviser told The Daily Beast on Thursday, “We’ve moved on from Ron DeSantis.”
The candidate herself has made that quite clear. At an event in Hollis on Thursday, Haley described DeSantis as “invisible in New Hampshire.”
“He’s closer to zero than he is to me,” Haley said, referencing DeSantis’ single-digit polling in New Hampshire, most recently as low as 4 percent. The former U.N. ambassador added how she was “focused on DeSantis in Iowa, and we’re no longer focused on him.”
Instead, Haley directed more criticism than usual toward Trump. “I know Trump threw a temper tantrum about me last night,” Haley said in Hollis. “I heard that.”
Haley also hit back at “my friend Trump” for saying she didn’t want to close the border. “You saw what I said about the border," Haley told the crowd. “He said I didn’t want a wall. What I said is I don’t want just a wall. We’ve got to do more than that to make sure we have no flow coming in."
Still doing this
As Trump and Haley’s camps battle out the final phases of the primary, DeSantis’ machine is trying to move forward—until it isn’t.
The governor is scheduled to return to New Hampshire for a quick series of events on Friday. He’s then slated to campaign through the weekend in South Carolina, where many campaign staffers have relocated. That state, where Trump and Haley are very popular, does not hold its primary until Feb. 24.
A source close to the DeSantis campaign said the strategy shift has been sold to them as a play to outlast Haley past South Carolina, where DeSantis’ orbit expects she will lose to Trump in her home state.
In one sign that DeSantis is forging ahead, The Daily Beast can also exclusively report that the Florida governor has booked a venue for primary night in New Hampshire: the Derryfield Country Club outside of Manchester. But alarmingly, no other DeSantis events are currently scheduled for the state between Friday and election night.
Read the full story at The Daily Beast.