How Trump, Haley, and DeSantis Are Campaigning for the 2024 Election

How Trump, Haley, and DeSantis Are Campaigning for the 2024 Election



Nikki Haley paces around the stage as she answers audience questions. Ron DeSantis brings his wife and kids to almost every campaign stop. And Donald Trump calls them both insulting names at his rallies.

Hundreds of events over the course of the year reveal distinct campaigning styles among the top three Republican presidential candidates. With few major differences in their policy positions, the candidates have focused largely on their personal brands.

Here is what it feels like to be on the road with Mr. Trump, Ms. Haley and Mr. DeSantis.

The Walk-On

Nearly every campaign speech begins in the same way: Candidates are introduced by a host, surrogate or announcer, and then they take the stage.

After being introduced, both Ms. Haley and Mr. DeSantis jump into their speeches within about 30 seconds. Mr. Trump takes much longer.

Mr. Trump mills about on stage, allowing the audience, who has often waited hours to see him, to cheer as Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” plays. Almost three minutes pass before he starts speaking.

“Trump is a superstar in the eyes of the people in the room,” said Rachel Paine Caufield, a political science professor at Drake University in Des Moines.

Ms. Haley’s and Mr. DeSantis’ events tend to have more curious onlookers rather than hard core fans, voters who want a sense of who each candidate is and what it feels like to be in the room with them. Before she starts her speech, Ms. Haley will sometimes ask who in the room is seeing her for the first time, which usually draws more than a few hands.

Same Issues,
Different Speaking Styles

The three candidates largely target the same issues in their speeches: inflation and government debt, crime, illegal immigration and strengthening law enforcement and the military.

Where they differ is how they speak about these issues, especially the economy and inflation.

Here they are speaking about immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mr. DeSantis tends to use long words and policy jargon — “Bidenomics,” “balanced budget amendment,” “fees on remittances.” Ms. Caufield said that his lexicon aims to convey intelligence and strength. Ruth Sherman, a political communications consultant, noted that Mr. DeSantis uses volume as a tool for expression, often speaking louder to make a point.

By contrast, Ms. Haley aims to convey empathy when she speaks — “you feel it,” “when you get up in the morning” — and often bookends her main points with personal anecdotes. Both Ms. Caufield and Ms. Sherman observed that Ms. Haley uses her voice expressively and employs expansive hand gestures to add energy and power.

Mr. Trump uses vague and exaggerated language — “country killer,” “millions and millions,” “very bad and sinister” — to paint issues with a broad brush. He will meander through stories and explanations until he gets to his point, which can end in a catchphrase that he repeats several times.

Talking About Each Other

Mr. Trump has not been shy about attacking Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Haley.

For much of last year, Mr. Trump focused his jabs at Mr. DeSantis, repeatedly calling him “DeSanctimonious” or “DeSanctis” in his speeches. But after the second Republican debate, when Ms. Haley began to rise in the polls, he started calling her “Birdbrain.” He accuses them both of disloyalty, arguing they “betrayed” him by running for president.

Ms. Haley and Mr. DeSantis have both tried to present themselves as softer alternatives to Mr. Trump, and they have tread much more lightly when talking about him. Early in their campaigns, they referred to him and his policies critically but often without saying his name. More recently, as voting draws closer, they have explicitly stated that Mr. Trump was the right president at the time but is not fit for the job in 2024.

Connecting with the Audience

Even when using a teleprompter, Mr. Trump speaks to his audience casually. He goes off-script to work the crowd, asking them direct questions, taking live polls and calling out specific people he seems to recognize in the front row.

As Ms. Caufield said, “He’s a showman, first and foremost.”

Mr. Trump also uses a “call and response” technique with his audience, appealing to their emotions but rarely taking their questions.

Mr. DeSantis’ primary way of connecting with voters is by using his wife, Casey. She has joined her husband on stage to answer audience questions, introduced him at events, and brought their children up to wave and share relatable stories about parenting.

Ms. DeSantis has even held solo campaign events, reflecting the central role she has in her husband’s political career.

Voters who Ms. Caufield spoke with during early DeSantis events would say that he was a little awkward and that maybe he had the potential to become a great candidate. Those voters, she said, would often “follow that up by saying, ‘Casey DeSantis is amazing.’”

One of Ms. Haley’s signature moves is to walk back and forth across the stage. Even when she has a podium or a chair available, she frequently chooses to pace around, turning to address different sections of the audience as she speaks.

Her campaign events are often set up in the round, with the audience on three or all four sides of her, while Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Trump are more likely to be at a podium directly in front of their crowds. Ms. Haley’s staging allows people to ask her questions from all over the room, boosting her message that she will not shy away from answering tough questions and giving “hard truth” answers.

As the three candidates make their final pitches to early voters, Mr. Trump will aim to lock down his dominant lead in the polls ahead of Ms. Haley and Mr. DeSantis.


The video clips used in this article are from the following sources: Forbes Breaking News; Right Side Broadcasting Network; ABC Action News; Sky News; JET24 FOX 66 YourErie; CNN-News18; Never Back Down; Reuters; The Gazette; NBC News; C-SPAN; Nikki Haley; The National Desk; and Sioux City Journal.