Our DeSantis and Haley Reporters Switched Places. Here’s What They Found.


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For months, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, Republican contenders locked in a heated rivalry for second place in their party’s 2024 presidential nominating contest, have been crisscrossing Iowa ahead of the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

And so have we.

As beat reporters, we’ve been trailing these two candidates for so long that we can recite every punchline, anticipate the applause and guess their potential responses to questions from voters on the campaign trail. Normally, Nicholas Nehamas is on the road with Mr. DeSantis, the governor of Florida, and Jazmine Ulloa follows Ms. Haley, former governor of South Carolina.

On the final Saturday before Iowans vote, we switched roles for a day. Nicholas drove northeast from Des Moines to a Haley event at a brewery in Cedar Falls. Jazmine headed west to a DeSantis event in Council Bluffs.

Here’s what we learned.

NICHOLAS The first thing I noticed when I walked into Second State Brewing in Cedar Falls: Ms. Haley’s warm-up music wasn’t deafening. At DeSantis events, the music drowns out every thought and makes it difficult to talk to voters. Which almost feels intentional.

The Haley crowd, roughly 60 people, was also a little younger and more suburban than I was used to. One voter told me she was a New York Times subscriber — not something I typically hear when I’m following Mr. DeSantis.

About 15 minutes before Ms. Haley went onstage, someone announced over the sound system that reporters needed to go to the back of the room. I ignored that and kept talking to voters. Eventually, a very polite Haley staffer came to retrieve me. The tightly controlled environment felt like the early days of the DeSantis campaign, when harried staff members tried to keep us away from voters and sometimes even the candidate.

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Our DeSantis and Haley Reporters Switched Places. Here’s What They Found.

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