The 2024 Republican presidential field is rapidly shrinking. But is it too late to stop Trump?

Republican presidential candidate former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis listen during a Republican presidential primary debate Wednesday in Miami. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Republican Party’s once-crowded 2024 presidential primary field has suddenly shrunk to just a handful of viable candidates.

But a day after Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina stunned many of his own staff by suspending his campaign, it’s unclear whether the GOP is any closer to coalescing behind a clear alternative to former President Donald Trump. Instead, the fight between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis for a distant second place appears to be intensifying. And some lower-tier candidates insist on battling for relevance, despite growing pressure to bow out of the race altogether.


Meanwhile, Trump’s team is cheering on the muddle for second place with Iowa’s Jan. 15 kickoff caucuses just two months away.

Still, there were new positive signs on Monday for Haley, Scott’s South Carolina rival, who had been rising in the Republican contest even before the senator’s sudden announcement.

Billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmillier, who had given money to Scott, pledged his support for Haley during a Monday interview as he spoke publicly about the 2024 race for the first time. He emphasized the need for the GOP to coalesce behind the former United Nations ambassador before primary voting begins.

“Now I’m hoping the field clears and it’s Nikki Haley one-on-one with the former president,” Druckenmillier told The Associated Press. “As long as the field is cleared before the actual primaries, I think that’s what’s important.”

But DeSantis is showing no signs of going away as he narrows his focus on Iowa’s leadoff caucuses.

The Florida governor’s spokesperson, Andrew Romeo, says he has a new opportunity in Iowa with Scott and former Vice President Mike Pence out of the race. He pointed to Iowa’s influential group of religious conservatives who have warmed to DeSantis’ strong opposition to abortion and LGBTQ rights as part of his aggressive “war on woke.”

Just last week, DeSantis scored the biggest endorsement of the 2024 campaign by nabbing the backing of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who promises to lend the Florida governor her folksy charm — and her statewide political machine.

“Tim Scott and Mike Pence were surging resources in Iowa, looking to attract evangelical supporters, and unlike Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis is making headway with those voters,” Romeo said. “In the coming weeks, these voters will see that Nikki Haley’s record and values don’t match her rhetoric.”

The prominence of the Haley-DeSantis feud underscores just how quickly the 2024 Republican field has winnowed compared to the last time Trump was on the ballot.

At this time in the 2016 primary season, 13 Republican presidential candidates were still competing on the debate stage across two nights. The 2024 primary season opened with eight Republicans in the opening debate this August, while no more than four are expected to qualify for next month’s debate in Alabama: Haley, DeSantis, conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Christie.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson failed to qualify for the last debate, although they’re still in the race. Pence, who would not have qualified for the last debate, suspended his campaign last month facing a similar dilemma.

Trump’s team is cheering on the feud between Haley and DeSantis, who are largely focused on tearing down each other, while the former president remains the overwhelming GOP front-runner.

Privately, Trump’s allies believe that Haley will see the biggest short-term polling bump as a result of Scott’s departure.

But they also believe that Trump, who has a substantial lead, is likely to extend his already huge advantage.

The Trump campaign issued a statement on Monday highlighting Haley’s plans to invest $10 million in an advertising campaign across Iowa and New Hampshire beginning in early December, which is designed to give her an advantage over DeSantis.

“In a big blow to Ron DeSanctimonious, a new report notes that Nikki ‘Birdbrain’ Haley will spend $10 million in advertising skewering DeSanctus in Iowa and New Hampshire,” the Trump campaign said, pointing to Haley’s recent rise in the polls.

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