DeSantis was flooded with photos after his speech, despite officials pleading with people to stay in their seats so the governor could move around the room. He worked with the crowd of 500 at the Amos Tuck dinner party in central Manchester for more than an hour, a flurry of handshakes and photos that the state party chairman said was unplanned and challenges the notion that he lacks of retail skills.
DeSantis might have a big enough reputation to overlook the small rooms other presidential contenders have to work in. But he’s trying to walk the walk in this small state that prides itself on putting politicians through the ring of retail politics, and he’s expected to follow up his star turn in Manchester with a few smaller stops on Saturday.
And that could spell trouble for his potential single-digit poll rivals, who have been betting big on early state retail politicking to set themselves apart from their big-name competitors: DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, who is still No. 1 in the polls.
“If you’re in New Hampshire and you’re running a sustained grassroots campaign, town hall-style meetings (I know Nikki Haley has several coming up), then you can slowly build a presence with the right message. And that’s the way to get into the Trump-DeSantis narrative and get to the top of the presidential race,» said Mike Dennehy, a veteran Republican strategist from New Hampshire.
But «I don’t think you can come in once a month for a couple of days, and have a couple of town hall meetings, and stop by a couple of diners, and make that enough of an effort to make a difference.» he said.
Haley has stuck to that cadence since its release, coming to New Hampshire once a month for a series of town halls that she says are the key to beating Trump.
“I’m not going to focus on doing big rallies,” Haley told a small crowd at the Derry-Salem Elks Lodge last month when asked how she planned to defeat Trump in the primary. “We are going to touch hands over and over again. … You have to go face to face. You can’t just fly in and fly out.»
As Haley plans his return to New Hampshire, Vivek Ramaswamy is in the middle of a 10-county bus tour across the state that will take him from breweries to civic engagement centers.
And the first stop Sen. Tim Scott (RS.C.) made in New Hampshire since declaring his presidential exploratory committee was to work the counter at the packed Red Arrow Diner in Manchester.
As DeSantis moves ever closer to a presidential bid, he’ll need to find a way to keep single-digit candidates at bay while competing against the party’s other rock star: Trump.
“Only Donald Trump can come and campaign with tens of thousands of people in a stadium. Most of the candidates in New Hampshire will have to commit to going to living rooms and backyard barbecues, and that includes Ron DeSantis,” former New Hampshire Republican Chairman Wayne MacDonald, who chaired the campaign for former New Hampshire governor New Jersey Chris Christie in 2016 in New Hampshire. he said in an interview. «If he’s not prepared to do that, then he’s going to have a problem in New Hampshire.»
DeSantis not only sold out the state’s main Republican Party fundraising dinner Friday, but helped the party raise a record $382,000, in part by asking his own donors to pitch in.
And the governor’s impromptu salute made the already star-dazzled crowd of party activists jittery. They harassed him as he shuffled from table to table, blabbering about the unusually warm weather — “I take it” — and shaking hands.
But Friday was just DeSantis’ introduction to a state known for taking out politicians who can’t do it on the road.
«My advice for [DeSantis] is to accept the invitation to the Belknap County Republican Committee cruise on June 2,” said Belknap County Republican Chairman Gregg Hough. “There will be 300 to 500 of the top Republicans in the state, and if you want to have a chance in this place, you’re going to have to.”