By Nicholas Nehamas, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan, Maggie Astor and Chris Cameron
Ron DeSantis’ exit Sunday cemented the Republican presidential race as a two-person contest between Donald Trump and Nikki Haley with the New Hampshire primary less than 48 hours away.
Trump, at a rally in Rochester, New Hampshire, basked in the embrace of his former rivals.
“Vivek just came with us,” he said of Vivek Ramaswamy. “And now Ron just came with us. They’re all coming with us.”
Haley, earlier, took a small victory lap with the news. “It’s now one fella and one lady left,” she said in Seabrook, New Hampshire, holding up two fingers to cheers. She added: “For now, I’ll leave you with this: May the best woman win.”
Trump’s praise for his former rival was a sharp turnabout, as he had made bashing DeSantis a blood sport for much of the past year. A little over an hour after DeSantis dropped out, Trump said he was “officially” retiring his derisive nickname for the Florida governor: “DeSanctimonious.”
“As you know, he left the campaign trail today at 3 p.m.,” Trump said of DeSantis in Rochester. “And in so doing, he was very gracious, and he endorsed me, so I appreciate that.”
Though Haley now has the two-person race she sought, it remains to be seen whether DeSantis’ departure will help her, or whether more of his supporters — like DeSantis himself — will migrate to Trump. DeSantis said the former president was preferable to “the old Republican guard of yesteryear,” a swipe at Haley. And within minutes of his announcement, one of his top surrogates, Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., had posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, “It is my privilege to provide my complete and total endorsement for Donald J. Trump.”
A growing number of Trump-supporting Republicans are looking past the primaries and declaring him “the presumptive nominee.” The list includes the chairs of the House and Senate Republican campaign arms, Richard Hudson and Steve Daines.
Even before DeSantis dropped out, days after his devastating 30-percentage-point loss to Trump in Iowa, Haley and Trump were locked in an increasingly intense and personal battle in New Hampshire. Trump has a significant lead in polls there, but Haley hopes to capitalize on the support of independent voters.
Here’s what else to know:
— Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida campaigned for Trump in Keene, New Hampshire, on Sunday, while Haley appeared with Judith Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy, at a rally in Exeter.
— Rep. Dean Phillips, President Joe Biden’s little-known primary challenger, said he would be open to joining a No Labels ticket if Biden and Trump were the major-party nominees.
— Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will headline events this week centered on protecting reproductive rights. Their campaign is also releasing an ad featuring a Texas OB-GYN who had to leave the state for an abortion after she learned her fetus had a fatal condition.