DeSantis quits 2024 race, Haley responds: ‘May the best woman win’

AJC in NH notebook: Dean Phillips rails against Biden and the DNC

SEABROOK, N.H. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis abruptly suspended his campaign for president Sunday and endorsed Donald Trump, ending his White House quest days after his humiliating defeat in Iowa.

The two-term Republican’s sudden departure from the race was the culmination of a political implosion that took him from early frontrunner to political afterthought. And it gave former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley the head-to-head matchup against Trump she long wanted.

Still, it’s not clear whether DeSantis’ departure will give Haley a boost ahead of Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary or the Feb. 24 contest in her home state of South Carolina.

In a parting shot, DeSantis descried Haley in bracing terms as part of the “old Republican guard of yesteryear − a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism” as he gave Trump’s comeback bid his blessing. Haley shrugged off the attack.

“I’m used to people underestimating me. It’s always fun,” Haley told reporters at Brown’s Lobster Pound in the coastal town of Seabrook minutes after DeSantis quit the race.

“But there were 14 people in the race. And now there are two. And now I’m going to finish this, so Joe Biden and Donald Trump are not an issue at all. So we actually put them in the past and move forward.”

Haley’s advisers quickly said they could benefit from consolidating the anti-Trump vote in a state where independent voters make up nearly 40% of the electorate -- and where she’s been working to forge a coalition of mainstream conservatives, middle-of-the-road voters and disaffected Democrats.

Trump’s campaign said in a statement that it was “honored” by DeSantis’ endorsement and bashed Haley as a candidate who “represents the views of Democrats more than the views of Republicans.” Several of his allies quickly backed Trump.

(U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick, DeSantis’ most prominent Georgia supporter, called for Republicans to “unite for our next victory” but stopped short of publicly backing Haley or Trump.)

Haley, for her part, praised DeSantis for running a “great race.” And she vowed to stay in the running even if she fares poorly on Tuesday, setting her sites on South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary in her home state.

“Look at that: 56,000 people voted in Iowa. Less than 2% voted in one state. We’re not going to let that decide what happens in this country,” Haley said. “We’ve got New Hampshire, we’ve got South Carolina, we’ve got Super Tuesday. We’re going to keep on going.”

To the crowd of supporters at the seafood restaurant, Haley had a slightly different closing message.

“May the best woman win.”

Dean Phillips hits Biden for New Hampshire’s Democratic demotion

HAMPTON, N.H.— Even U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips has downplayed his chances of topping President Joe Biden even though the incumbent won’t be on New Hampshire’s Democratic ballot on Tuesday.

But the Minnesota Democrat drew his loudest applause Sunday when he railed against the party’s decision to supplant New Hampshire with South Carolina as the first in the nation primary. State Democrats are bucking the national party rules by sticking to their January date, even though it means the state’s delegates won’t be counted as part of the official nominating process.

Phillips called the national party’s move “one of the most grievous affronts to democracy” as supporters in a seafood restaurant waved placards that read: “Joe wrote you off. Why write him in?”

His speech highlighted the sore feelings of local Democrats over the switcheroo, which was designed to elevate South Carolina’s diverse electorate.

Defiant New Hampshire Democrats have cited the fact that the state’s first-in-the-nation status is enshrined in local law and pledged to fight to preserve now-disqualified delegates.

Biden still will likely win. His allies have organized an extensive write-in campaign.

But Phillips has attracted enough support to merit attention as a curiosity, if not a threat to the president.

He invokes the Georgia civil rights icon John Lewis in speeches and pledges to find “common ground” on issues he said shouldn’t be contentious. Overhauling the immigration system. Nationalizing healthcare. Building 7 million new homes.

He approaches his long-shot pitch with a dose of levity. His TV ads compare Biden to Bigfoot, and billboards in Manchester ask residents if they’ve spotted the president. His stump speech is laced with self-deprecating jokes.

“Being unknown in a presidential campaign is a huge blessing,” Phillips said, “because two-thirds of the country doesn’t hate me yet.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Greg Bluestein and columnist Patricia Murphy are in New Hampshire to cover its first-in-the-nation Republican primary. Follow their coverage on, and follow them on X: Bluestein at @bluestein and Murphy at @MurphyAJC