On the trail: DeSantis returning to NH as a declared candidate


For the Monitor

Published: 05-26-2023 4:27 PM

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida returns to New Hampshire next week as a declared presidential candidate.

DeSantis will hold campaign events on Thursday, June 1, in Laconia, Rochester, Salem, and Manchester, according to his political team.

The two-term governor, who saw his popularity soar among conservatives across the country the past three years, courtesy of his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a culture warrior going after media, corporations and school unions, won a convincing 19-point re-election victory last November that helped turned the one-time battleground of Florida into a red state.

And DeSantis, who served in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps and later in Congress before winning election as governor, racked up a slew of conservative policy victories – including a controversial six-week abortion law, tougher immigration laws, restrictions on gender and diversity instruction in schools, and green-lighting the ability to carry a concealed weapon without a permit – during Florida’s just-concluded legislative session, courtesy of a GOP super-majority in Tallahassee.

At the same time, he started moving toward launching a presidential campaign, traveling across the country in recent months, highlighting his “Florida blueprint” as a model for the nation, and promoting his newly released book, “The Courage to Be Free.” His travels brought him twice to both Iowa and New Hampshire, the two states that lead off the GOP presidential nominating calendar.

On Wednesday, DeSantis made it official, filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and saying in a campaign launch video that he’s “running for president to lead our great American comeback,” as he formally declared his candidacy for the White House.

But that announcement was quickly followed by an extremely rocky rollout by DeSantis in an appearance on Twitter with business magnate and Twitter owner Elon Musk, where the Florida governor concurrently kicked off his 2024 campaign.

The DeSantis’ campaign quickly described the severe glitches as a “break the internet” moment due to intense interest in the launch.

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But former President Donald Trump – who’s the clear front-runner in the Republican nomination race as he makes his third straight White House run – argued the episode was an embarrassing flop. However, the DeSantis campaign touted that they had a fruitful night – showcasing that they hauled in $1 million in on-line fundraising in the first hour after the governor declared his candidacy. And on Thursday they showcased that they hauled in $8.2 million in fundraising in their first 24 hours, breaking the record set four years ago by now-President Joe Biden.

While DeSantis is firmly in second place in the latest national and New Hampshire surveys in the Republican race, far ahead of the rest of the field of actual and likely contenders, he trails Trump by double digits, and has seen the former president’s lead over him expand in recent months.

But DeSantis returns to New Hampshire with some already built-in support. Over 50 state lawmakers – including House of Representatives majority leader Jason Osborne – have endorsed the governor. And a deep-pocketed super PAC named ‘Never Back Down’ that is backing DeSantis’ presidential bid has begun building a formidable team of operatives in the Granite State.

DeSantis isn’t the only Republican presidential candidate scheduled to campaign in New Hampshire next week. Former two-term Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson returns to the Granite State on Wednesday. And multi-millionaire, best-selling author, and conservative commentator Vivek Ramaswamy returns on Thursday and Friday. He’ll hold three events in Concord on Friday before heading to Laconia.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina was back in the Granite State this week – for third trip the past couple of months – but his first as a declared presidential candidate.

Scott, a rising star in the GOP and the only Black Republican in the U.S. Senate, launched his presidential campaign on Monday at Charleston Southern University – his alma mater – in his hometown of North Charleston, South Carolina. Three days later, he was back in New Hampshire, for a handful of events on Thursday with business leaders and Republican activists.

The other presidential candidate from South Carolina – former two-term governor and former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley – made a jam-packed three-state swing through the state this week, including headlining ‘Politics and Eggs’ at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. The speaking series at Saint Anselm College has been a must stop for over two decades for White House hopefuls of both presidential parties. It was Haley’s fourth trip to New Hampshire since declaring her candidacy in February.

Trump, who’s made three stops in New Hampshire since launching his 2024 campaign last November, will return to the Granite State on June 27, when he’ll head to Concord to headline the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women’s annual Lilac Luncheon, which will be held this year at the Grappone Center.

While the race for the GOP nomination is grabbing most of the political world’s spotlight, President Joe Biden is facing longshot Democratic primary challenges from two candidates with national followings – environmental lawyer and high-profile vaccine critic Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and best-selling author and spiritual adviser Marianne Williamson, who’s making her second straight White House run.

Kennedy returns to New Hampshire on Thursday to campaign in the state for the first time since declaring his candidacy at an event in Boston in April. He’ll head to the State House in Concord, where he’ll address the state Senate. Declared candidates from both parties are being given the opportunity this cycle to speak before the upper chamber.