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Ron DeSantis ends his Republican presidential bid and endorses Trump


Republican strategist Alice Stewart has been listening along with us. She is also in Manchester, N.H. Good morning.

ALICE STEWART: Good morning, Steve, from a balmy 10 degrees in Manchester.

INSKEEP: Oh, it's down to 10?


INSKEEP: Hang in there. What's it been like driving around and talking to people in New Hampshire this past weekend?

STEWART: Well, it's interesting. You know, I've worked on many presidential campaigns, and one thing is for sure about New Hampshire - is a lot of them wait till the last minute to make up their mind and to kick the tires and talk to the candidates. You see a lot of yard signs on street corners and in yards, many for Trump, many for Nikki Haley. Goes to show they are gearing up for Tuesday. But yard signs don't vote. People do. And as we just heard, they're expecting record turnout despite these, you know, temperatures in the teens. New Hampshire people are tough. They're walking around in flip flops and short-sleeved shirts. And we're going to see record numbers without a doubt on Tuesday because they take this responsibility very seriously.

INSKEEP: OK, Trump has been very popular among Republicans, to state the obvious. But Nikki Haley's message is, let's move beyond Trump and Biden, by the way. Let's move beyond the past and these disreputable candidates, in her view. Is there not some appeal for that message, even among Republicans?

STEWART: There's tremendous appeal for it. But, you know, whether or not there's - a majority of Republicans resonate behind that remains to be seen. You know, basically, what we saw out of Iowa is that conservatives and Republicans aren't buying what she's selling, which is she is a better general election candidate than Donald Trump heading up against Joe Biden. And, you know, she is making the case that she is certainly someone that is free of drama, free of chaos. And head to head with Joe Biden, she's a better candidate.

And look, this - you know, potentially, we could see the Granite State being conservatives' last stand and how - moving forward. And there's a sense that Republican voters that are supporting Donald Trump, coming out in record numbers. It is almost like a sugar high with him - there's short-term gain and long-term pain because they get what they want right now, but come November, there's going to be the added weight and baggage of everything that Donald Trump brings and potentially more legal peril and potentially a conviction. And whether or not that has an impact with Democratic voters and certainly the independent voters, which make or break general elections with these independent voters and undecideds, that's going to be the real question...


STEWART: ...If that's where Republicans want to go.

INSKEEP: I suppose it could affect the rest of the ticket, as well, for Republicans. I want to ask a question, though. In 2016, when Trump ran the first time, there was a lot of Republican opposition to Trump. Trump didn't even get a majority of the primary votes for a long time. But the opposition was divided until very, very late. Now, very early, it's down to a one-on-one race. Could that improve Haley's chances?

STEWART: Well, I think, look. A head-to-head matchup with Nikki Haley is exactly what she wants. I spoke to her campaign yesterday. They say game on, but there's also the double-edged sword. A head-to-head matchup consolidates a majority of the field behind Donald Trump, and we've seen this already. Many of the other candidates - we just saw DeSantis, as soon as he dropped out yesterday, throw his support behind Trump, Tim Scott, Doug Burgum, Vivek Ramaswamy, all the other candidates.

And I think one thing that's going to be really challenging for Nikki Haley is heading into South Carolina. If she were to do well in New Hampshire, have the wind at her sails heading into New Hampshire, Donald Trump has rolled out an impressive array of South Carolina leaders that will campaign for him and, in essence, against her. So the fact that the Republican, you know, wing of the party, which is a majority of it right now, is coalesced against her, that's going to be a challenge. But I do think, as we said, it's going to benefit her in a state like New Hampshire, where we have - a large number of undeclared voters can come out to vote. And that's going to help her given that she's a little more moderate than Donald Trump.

INSKEEP: Just got a couple seconds here. People have been asking, who's angling for the vice-presidential nomination? Has Haley made it pretty clear she's not interested by the way she's been questioning Trump's mental fitness and competency in recent days?

STEWART: I think she has pretty much given all indication she probably won't be extended an invitation, and if she did, it would be difficult for her to take it.

INSKEEP: Republican strategist Alice Stewart, thanks so much.

STEWART: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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