It’s been a long, harrowing fortnight for Ron DeSantis, the former putative political wunderkind who I’ve been reporting for months was more of a Republican donor’s fantasy of a candidate than an actual voter’s. But after watching DeSantis shed 38 staffers, and after assessing days of leaked memos and background quotes promising a great reset, those heavily invested in the DeSantasy are now wondering if it’s time to jump ship, and to whom.
Many are looking hard at how DeSantis fares in Iowa and New Hampshire. “It’s still a two person race,” said Canary C.E.O. Dan Eberhart, a former Trump donor who has bundled and maxed out to DeSantis. “DeSantis needs to make a shift and make a decisive showing in Iowa or it’s going to be a one man race. He’s spending too much and needs to adjust.” He continued: “He needs to tell voters what he’s going to do for them, and drop a lot of the culture war stuff.”
But just based on his four-day schedule in New Hampshire this weekend, I don’t see a great pivot and neither do the party leaders and activists that I’ve spoken to recently. Without being offered a schedule, the rabid D.C. press corps has flown up just to observe this alleged reset of a semi-cash-starved candidate. From the invites I’ve cobbled together, DeSantis does not seem to be taking the advice of John McCain’s old hands, who advocated in 2007 for the former war hero to essentially set up camp in the state—a strategy which resulted in his nomination the following year. Instead, DeSantis has a schedule packed with more intimate events, instead of the back-to-back town halls that he so desperately needs to reach thousands of voters inexpensively. So far, DeSantis has only held one town hall in New Hampshire, whereas Nikki Haley will hold one in whatever town will have her. Tim Scott hosted one in Derry last week that won him plaudits for being upbeat and forward-looking.