DeSantis dropping out puts spotlight on Haley before New Hampshire

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) suspending his 2024 Republican presidential campaign has raised the stakes for former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley before New Hampshire’s primary on Tuesday as the last remaining candidate not named former President Donald Trump.

But despite seeking a two-person race for the Republican Party‘s nomination after Iowa’s caucuses, Haley is under pressure to outperform the polls before she has to compete in states where Trump is even more likely to win, including her home state of South Carolina.

DeSantis suspending his campaign “tips the playing field a little further toward Trump” before Tuesday, according to University of New Hampshire politics professor Dante Scala.

“Don’t underestimate the power of peer pressure inside a political party,” Scala told the Washington Examiner. “One politician bends the knee, others follow suit.”

FILE – Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arrives at a meet and greet, July 27, 2023, in Chariton, Iowa. DeSantis has suspended his Republican presidential campaign after a disappointing showing in Iowa’s leadoff caucuses. He ended his White House bid Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, after failing to meet lofty expectations that he would seriously challenge former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Although Trump has an almost 20 percentage point advantage over Haley in New Hampshire, Haley projected confidence after DeSantis suspended his campaign, her aides even announcing events in South Carolina after Tuesday.

“This comes down to what do you want? Do you want more of the same or do you want something new,” she told potential voters Sunday in Seabrook, New Hampshire. “What the people of New Hampshire should know is when we win the presidency in this country, I will do everything I can to prove to you that you made the right decision… But for now, I’ll leave you with this — may the best woman win.”

In a separate statement, Haley cited last week’s results in Iowa, where Trump received 51% of the vote to DeSantis’s 21% and her 19%, as evidence she could become the Republican standard-bearer, even though the Florida governor’s supporters are more similar to those of the former president.

“So far, only one state has voted,” she wrote. “Half of its votes went to Donald Trump, and half did not. We’re not a country of coronations. Voters deserve a say in whether we go down the road of Trump and [President Joe] Biden again or we go down a new conservative road. New Hampshire voters will have their say on Tuesday.”

Haley is more popular in New Hampshire than she was in Iowa, helped by the state’s more centrist politics and election rules, which permit independent voters, known as undeclared voters, to take part in the Republican primary. At the same time, at least before DeSantis suspended his campaign, Trump averaged 50% of the vote to Haley’s 35%.

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Specifically, in a Suffolk University/NBC10 Boston/Boston Globe tracking poll published Sunday, Trump had 55% of the vote to Haley’s 36% and DeSantis’s 6%.

“Second-choice preferences of a small subset of DeSantis voters from last track breaks to Trump over Haley 57%-33%,” David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center, said.

For Northeastern University politics professor Costas Panagopoulos, DeSantis supporters may simply stay home and not participate on Tuesday.

“The real question is what happens after [New Hampshire] when this becomes a head-to-head battle if Haley stays in the race,” Panagopoulos said. “It’s unclear Haley can consolidate anti-Trump support behind her and put together a coalition that can be competitive in the long run. Of course, should she be the last one standing if Republicans sour on Trump if his legal woes intensify or if he is disqualified from running by the Supreme Court, she could position herself to bear the banner in November. At the moment, such a scenario still seems unlikely, but not impossible.”

Meanwhile, Trump and his campaign have welcomed DeSantis suspending his bid, as well as his endorsement, the former president promising to no longer call the Florida governor “DeSanctimonious.” They also encouraged Haley to suspend her own campaign so Republicans can redirect their resources toward Biden and Democrats before November’s general election.

“Nikki Haley is the candidate of the globalists and Democrats who will do everything to stop the America First movement,” the Trump campaign said. “From higher taxes, to decimating Social Security and Medicare, and to open borders, she represents the views of Democrats more than the views of Republicans. It’s time to choose wisely.”

Trump repeated the sentiment during a rally in Rochester, New Hampshire, Sunday, praising “terrific person” DeSantis for running “a really good campaign” and for being “gracious” in defeat.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up after speaking at a campaign event in Rochester, N.H., Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

In a memo titled “Nikki Haley Must Win In New Hampshire,” Trump campaign managers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles additionally underscored expectations for her before Tuesday.

“If Nikki Haley loses in New Hampshire – there are only two options,” the pair wrote. “Option A: Nikki Haley drops out, unites behind President Trump, and commits to defeating Joe Biden (where, in the latest Harvard-Harris poll, Trump bests Biden by double the margin a now-fictional Haley vs. Biden match-up would be).” 

“Option B: Nikki Haley prepares to be absolutely DEMOLISHED and EMBARRASSED in her home state of South Carolina after she gets zippo votes or delegates in Nevada, because Haley entered the Nevada primary, rather than the Nevada caucus, where 100% of the state’s delegates are actually awarded,” they added.

Trump averages 66% of the vote in South Carolina to Haley’s 11.5%.

DeSantis announced he was suspending his campaign Sunday afternoon through a video recorded in Florida and posted on social media. Earlier, he canceled his TV appearances scheduled for Sunday morning and advised donors of his decision on the phone.

“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” DeSantis said. “They watched his presidency get stymied by relentless resistance, and they see Democrats using lawfare to this day to attack him.” 


“While I’ve had disagreements with Donald Trump, such as on the coronavirus pandemic and his elevation of Anthony Fauci, Trump is superior to the current incumbent Joe Biden. That is clear,” he continued. “I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee, and I will honor that pledge. He has my endorsement because we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”