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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Haley Tussles With DeSantis, Aiming to Prove Herself in Iowa

“They know how the game is run,” he said, “and when to peak.”

On Monday, Ms. Haley’s campaign announced it would be spending $10 million in television, radio and digital advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire starting in the first week of December — its first investment in advertising of the cycle and an amount so far outpacing the DeSantis campaign in the coming months.

In a press call the next day, Mark Harris, the lead strategist for Stand for America, the super PAC backing Ms. Haley, said the PAC had been helping level the playing field for her in Iowa. (Mr. DeSantis’s allied super PAC, Never Back Down, has invested roughly $17.7 million in the state covering this year and into January, and Stand for America has committed $13.6 million, according to AdImpact, a media-tracking firm.) He projected further growth and contended the DeSantis campaign had backed itself into a corner.

“We have our eggs in multiple baskets,” Mr. Harris said.

But Andrew Romeo, the DeSantis campaign’s communications director, countered that Ms. Haley’s ad buy amounted to “lighting money on fire,” and paled in comparison to having a network of staff members and volunteers who can mobilize voters on caucus day. “History shows the Iowa caucus cannot be bought on TV ads alone and that a strong ground game is what ultimately matters,” Mr. Romeo said in a statement.

Mr. DeSantis’s campaign and an allied super PAC have been pouring resources into building just that. The campaign has shifted roughly 20 employees to the state from its headquarters in Tallahassee, Fla., including three top aides. The candidate himself has made pit stops at gas stations, diners and county fairs across Iowa, so far visiting all but seven of its 99 counties, with plans to hit the rest soon. More than 40 state legislators have endorsed Mr. DeSantis, who has secured at least one local chair in each Iowa county. This week, Ms. Reynolds cut an ad promoting her endorsement of her fellow governor.

And Never Back Down says it has secured commitments from nearly 30,000 Iowans to caucus for Mr. DeSantis, signed up almost 20,000 volunteers and knocked on more than 633,000 doors. In a Nov. 6 memo sent to donors, Mr. DeSantis’s team said it soon expected to have nearly 50 paid workers across “more than six offices” statewide between the campaign and super PAC.

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