Nikki Haley‘s presidential campaign will reserve $10 million in television, radio and digital advertising across Iowa and New Hampshire beginning in the first week of December, a massive investment designed to give the former United Nations ambassador an advantage over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a critical moment in the GOP nomination fight.
Details of the advertising plans, which represent the Haley campaign’s first official advertising reservation, were obtained by The Associated Press ahead of a public announcement expected Monday. Haley’s planned investment, as of now, is more than five times larger than DeSantis’ current advertising reserves for the same time period, according to the media tracking firm AdImpact.
Haley’s move comes as she fights to emerge as the clear alternative to former President Donald Trump to represent the GOP against President Joe Biden next fall. DeSantis stands as Haley’s strongest competition for her party’s second-place slot, although the Florida governor’s campaign has shown signs of financial strain following a tumultuous summer.
Trump remains the overwhelming front-runner in the GOP primary. Rival campaigns are betting that if they can emerge as the main alternative to Trump that they can consolidate enough support to mount a strong challenge against him or replace him if he falters. Trump faces four criminal indictments, including a case focusing on his efforts to overturn his 2020 general election defeat in Georgia and another on felony charges for working to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the run-up to the violent Jan. 6, 2021 riot by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol.
In U.S. politics, fundraising and advertising strategy can often be more consequential than a candidate’s policies or personality. But money raised and spent by campaigns only tell part of the story in the 2024 election.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, whose allied super PAC had booked $7.5 million in ads through Iowa’s Jan. 15 caucuses, dropped out of the race late Sunday. Scott had struggled to register in polls nationally and October polls found him trailing far behind Trump and Haley, his fellow South Carolinian.
Haley will run her advertising through Iowa’s Jan. 15 caucuses and New Hampshire’s primary to follow. As of now, the DeSantis campaign is spending only in Iowa.
Haley’s campaign declined to say whether the ads would attack DeSantis or Trump directly. But campaign manager Betsy Ankney called out DeSantis’ campaign, which after winning the endorsement of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds argued that Haley and others in the GOP field could only be “spoilers.”
“Nikki Haley’s momentum and path to victory are clear,” Ankney said. “The same can’t be said for Ron DeSantis, who, even with a decent showing in Iowa, can’t afford a cup of coffee at the Red Arrow diner in New Hampshire and is a mere tourist in South Carolina.”
DeSantis’ campaign reported just $5 million available to spend in the primary at the end of September, although spokesman Andrew Romeo said DeSantis raised millions more last month, including $1 million since last week’s GOP presidential debate.
“As Americans look behind the curtain, they will see (Haley) does not have the extensive record of conservative achievements that Ron DeSantis boasts,” Romeo said Monday in response to Haley’s advertising plans. “It’s clear there is no way Nikki Haley can beat Donald Trump, and every dollar spent on her candidacy is an in-kind to the Trump Campaign. ... We are confident the Iowa voters will see who will best represent them and their values.”
The DeSantis campaign, which has gone through two rounds of layoffs already, continues to look to an allied super PAC to help build out campaign infrastructure and supplement advertising spending. Haley’s campaign has also leaned on an allied super PAC to keep pace with DeSantis’ allies in recent months. The rival super PACs have largely kept pace with each other.
As of Sunday, Haley’s super PAC had reserved nearly $4.9 million in advertising from Monday through January compared to almost $4 million reserved by DeSantis’ super PAC, according to AdImpact.
DeSantis’ opponents flagged another shift in spending as a potential sign of financial stress. The pro-DeSantis Never Back Down moved late last week to shift roughly $700,000 in advertising initially set to run this month into January instead. The move leaves DeSantis with no advertising in New Hampshire whatsoever over the next two weeks.
Kristin Davison, who leads Never Back Down, said no advertising dollars were “cut.” Instead, she said they were “optimized and placed to complement (the) campaign and get January started.”
Future advertising reserves don’t require payment until just before the ads run, while the bill for this month’s ads were about to come due. In short, the maneuver could have been a way to save money in the short term, although Davison described the decision as standard operating procedure.
Davison expressed optimism about the direction of the DeSantis campaign, pointing to Reynolds’ endorsement last week, which was “not only a huge endorsement and validator for Gov. DeSantis, but also a real setback for Nikki Haley.”
“I think it effectively kills her in Iowa not to have the governor’s support,” Davison said. As DeSantis and Haley intensify their rivalry, Trump continues to dominate in polling and fundraising.
In his most recent federal filing, Trump’s campaign committee reported more than $37.5 million cash on hand at the end of September, which was more than DeSantis and Haley combined.
Haley acknowledged Trump’s political strength on Sunday, but she also outlined her path forward. “We have plenty of money that we’re going to be on TV with,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re going to be strong in New Hampshire. We’re going to be strong in South Carolina, because we spent our money well. We’ve got great ground games in every one of those states. And we’re going to keep surging.”
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition