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Shake-Up by a Desperate DeSantis Opens Wider Path for Haley in New Hampshire

U.S.Shake-Up by a Desperate DeSantis Opens Wider Path for Haley in New Hampshire

Straining to recover after a bruising defeat in Iowa, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and his allies moved on Wednesday to shake up his operation yet again, with his super PAC carrying out layoffs and the campaign signaling that it would largely bypass New Hampshire’s primary election next week in favor of competing in South Carolina.

The change in strategy appeared to set up the one-on-one contest in New Hampshire that Nikki Haley has been hoping for against former President Donald J. Trump, who leads in polls but is more vulnerable in the moderate state than in socially conservative Iowa. At the same time, the shift could put new pressure on Ms. Haley in South Carolina, where she once served as governor.

The maneuvering may not ultimately make much of a dent in a race in which Mr. Trump has dominated polling, won the Iowa caucuses on Monday by a staggering 30 percentage points and spent Wednesday in court for one of his many legal cases, where a judge threatened to kick him out for being unruly. But it changed the calculations for his remaining Republican rivals.

As Mr. DeSantis’s team licked its wounds on Wednesday, his super PAC, Never Back Down, trimmed operations in several places, including Nevada. Other staff members were also laid off, including almost the entire online “war room” team, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Those who were cut had their email accounts immediately suspended. It was unclear how many people in all lost their jobs.

Mr. DeSantis also began moving a majority of his campaign staff — a separate group — to South Carolina to prepare for its Feb. 24 primary, according to a senior campaign official, who insisted on anonymity. And rather than campaign exclusively in New Hampshire this week, the final stretch before the primary election on Jan. 23, Mr. DeSantis will stump in South Carolina over the weekend, hoping that his conservative message will better align with primary voters.

His campaign on Wednesday framed the decision as a chance to deal a knockout blow to Ms. Haley.

“When Nikki Haley fails to win her home state, she’ll be finished and this will be a two-person race,” Andrew Romeo, a campaign spokesman, said in a statement. “We’re wasting no time in taking the fight directly to Haley on her home turf.”

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