As the GOP presidential primary continues to intensify over the summer, most White House hopefuls are devoting time to states, including New Hampshire and Iowa, the states that kick off the nomination process early in 2024. But Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are looking elsewhere.
Saturday, the Florida governor will address more than 1,500 Republicans at Nashville’s Music City Center. A few weeks later, the former president will swing through Alabama and headline the state GOP’s most significant summer event.
Former President Trump, the early party frontrunner, and DeSantis trailing him for second place have held rallies and other significant events in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Iowa and sometimes appeared in the same state on the same day.
However, they are doing more than the other Republican candidates to strengthen their position in states like Alabama and Tennessee that will hold elections on Super Tuesday. That is the day the most significant number of delegates, which candidates win state-by-state, are up for grabs on any date during the primary cycle.
Only DeSantis and Trump, who have raised tens of millions of dollars to support their campaigns, have the resources to work in meaningful ways beyond the early states. And Republican leaders beyond South Carolina, Iowa, and New Hampshire say it’s a smart strategy.
“I know everybody’s focused on Iowa and New Hampshire,” said chairman of the Tennessee GOP, Scott Golden, who noted that early voting in his state starts in mid-February before South Carolina is scheduled to hold its contest. “But it is worth taking a little time out to come to Tennessee.”
Super Tuesday is a circled-in-red date for presidential candidates — in 2024, it’s March 5 — that can make or break a campaign.
Shortly after contests in early states, including New Hampshire and Iowa, roughly 14 primaries are held across a wide geographic area, from Texas to California to Maine and Massachusetts. The day is also a test of a campaign’s ability to organize supporters and its financial strength, as well as a chance for candidates still standing to increase their total delegates.
The early start reflects the confidence of the candidates they will remain in the running in March when the field typically has been whittled down. Polling shows Trump holding a comfortable lead, followed by DeSantis, trailed by other candidates. They include South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former Ambassador to the U.N. and Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, and former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie.
Trump, DeSantis have funding to wage a broader campaign than other candidates
DeSantis and Trump have the funds to wage a broader campaign. In the second quarter of the year, it will be reported Trump raised $35 million, according to his campaign. In contrast, DeSantis’ campaign said he brought in $20 million only six weeks after announcing his candidacy.
Former President Trump entered the race with the advantage of having run and won the races before. In 2021, Trump held a “Save America” rally in Alabama that drew 50,000 people.
According to Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl, “People of Alabama have a special relationship with Donald Trump,” noting that the former president won the GOP primary in 2016 while battling Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas for the nomination. Trump also won the general election in Alabama easily in 2016 and 2020.
While considered a small state compared to many other Super Tuesday contests, Wahl said places like Alabama allow candidates to demonstrate support among conservative voters that are “the heartbeat of the Republican Party.”
“It’s states like Alabama that are going to be where (Trump) hopes to make a lot of ground,” he said. “And if other candidates are going to beat him, they have to compete with him in those states.”