Republican presidential candidates and their supporters are seizing the opportunity following Tim Scott’s surprising exit from the 2024 presidential race. They aim to court Scott’s donors and consolidate a narrower field, hoping to challenge former President Donald Trump’s re-nomination bid. This development moves the contest closer to a three-way race between Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.
The competition between the candidates is playing out through private conversations, with various attempts to win over Scott’s network of wealthy supporters. Both Trump and DeSantis have engaged in conversations with Scott, while Haley has been in contact with him via text. However, it remains uncertain if any alternative candidate can gather enough support to seriously challenge Trump, especially as DeSantis and Haley increasingly focus on attacking each other.
The Trump campaign celebrated Haley’s $10 million ad reservation in early nominating states, which poses a threat to DeSantis in Iowa, where he has staked his campaign. Observers note the similarity to the 2016 race, cautioning that candidates need to avoid dividing opposition votes and inadvertently aiding Trump’s bid.
Some lower-polling candidates, like Chris Christie, have not shown signs of withdrawing at this point. Critics argue that consolidation among Trump’s rivals is crucial to have a real chance of defeating him. However, on Monday, Christie’s campaign announced that they had quickly met the donor requirement for the upcoming debate.
While Scott has engaged in conversations with DeSantis, Trump, Christie, and Haley, he has no plans to endorse any rivals “in the near term.” Scott started considering his exit after the third debate and is now focusing on taking care of his campaign staff members.
Haley appears poised to win over prominent Scott donors due to her long-standing relationships in South Carolina. Her supporters hope that Scott’s voters will also migrate towards her campaign, as she tries to position herself as the best candidate to challenge Trump beyond Iowa.
As Scott’s departure has taken place, some voters, like Matthew Wedemeier in Iowa, have shifted their support towards Trump, realizing that he remains the dominant candidate. The call now is for donors and prominent Republicans in early voting states to further narrow the field. For instance, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ recent endorsement of DeSantis was a setback for Scott, who had counted on the state’s support.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu is also expected to endorse a challenger to Trump soon, with Haley, DeSantis, and Christie being considered as potential picks. Sununu believes that consolidation needs to occur before Super Tuesday when a large number of delegates are decided.
Haley’s campaign has announced a $10 million advertising reservation in Iowa and New Hampshire, outspending DeSantis even in the state where he polls the strongest. Super PACs supporting Haley, DeSantis, and Trump have all reserved significant amounts for ad campaigns going forward.
DeSantis has focused on the Trump base, which has helped him gain support among evangelical Christians in Iowa. Recent polling suggests that DeSantis voters in Iowa view Trump as their second choice, while Haley is their third choice.
Scott’s departure has led to a rapid shift of support from his donors to Haley, suggesting that DeSantis may struggle to win over these wealthy Republicans. Donors like Andy Sabin, who initially supported DeSantis but switched to Scott, argue that DeSantis’ positions on abortion make him unelectable.
Other prominent donors, such as Eric Levine and Stanley Druckenmiller, have committed to fundraising for Haley, believing that she can not only defeat Trump but also President Biden and aid Republicans in recovering from recent losses.
Overall, there is a growing sense among Republicans that the party needs to unite behind an alternative candidate quickly, as the field continues to narrow.