The campaign for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday downplayed the expected news of New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s endorsement of the rival candidacy of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
Sununu on Tuesday formally endorsed Haley during her town hall in Manchester, saying “we’re all in on Nikki Haley, undoubtedly.”
In a statement to CNN ahead of Sununu’s endorsement, spokesperson Andrew Romeo said, “What happens in New Hampshire will be significantly impacted by the outcome in Iowa, where the true Trump alternative will emerge.”
DeSantis has aggressively shifted resources to Iowa in hopes he can engineer a victory in the January 15 caucuses there that will reset the race before the New Hampshire primary on January 23. DeSantis was endorsed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in November.
“And when Ron DeSantis comes out in that position he will be joined by over 60 New Hampshire state legislators who stand ready to take the fight to the establishment and their candidates of yesteryear to return power to grassroots conservatives,” Romeo continued.
DeSantis’ campaign manager James Uthmeier, on CNN acknowledged that the Sununu endorsement is “meaningful.” However, he said what’s really going to move the needle in New Hampshire is the result of the Iowa caucuses.
“On January 15th, when people go out and cast their vote and everybody sees Ron DeSantis as the true Trump alternative, when they see him blow projections and expectations out of the water, that momentum will go into New Hampshire,” Uthmeier told CNN’s Dana Bash on Inside Politics.
“That momentum will certainly be more important than any one endorsement, but let’s not forget, Ron DeSantis has endorsements from over 60 legislators,” he added.
According to the latest Des Moines Register/NBC/Mediacom poll, DeSantis trails former president Donald Trump by 32 points in Iowa.
“The polls are the polls,” Uthmeier said.
“The same polls that predicted Donald Trump would win the Iowa caucus back in 2016, they were not accurate. The same polls that predicted a sweeping red wave for Republicans across the country last year, they were inaccurate. No public poll predicted that Ron DeSantis would soar above expectations with a 20-point win,” he said.
Uthmeier insisted the DeSantis campaign’s organization in Iowa will defy expectations.
“Team DeSantis has an organization in the caucus state of that is second to none. It is the most robust infrastructure, any presidential primary team in Iowa to date,” Uthmeier said.
DeSantis had sought Sununu’s backing and had campaigned with the New Hampshire governor in the Granite State as recently as November 21. It’s the latest setback for DeSantis in New Hampshire, where his support has fallen from its spring highs, and it creates new headwinds for the Florida governor’s hopes of a turnaround there.