'Third Place Is Not Good,' DeSantis Official Admits

But campaign insists Iowa polls are wrong
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2024 4:16 PM CST
DeSantis Campaign Braces for Iowa Results
Ron DeSantis greets a supporter after speaking at a campaign event, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, in Ankeny, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Ron DeSantis has vowed to stay in the race no matter what happens in the Iowa caucuses, but some of his backers are braced for bad results. The Florida governor ran what the Des Moines Register calls "an old-school Iowa Caucus campaign" after his campaign launch in May, holding events in all 99 counties. But while he won endorsements from state Republicans including Gov. Kim Reynolds, his standing in the Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa poll sagged from 19% in August to just 16% in the latest poll. The results have Trump as the frontrunner with the support of 48% of caucusgoers, followed by Nikki Haley at 20%.

Hal Lambert, a member of DeSantis' national finance committee, says "a close second would be a successful outcome," but anything below that could be a problem, Politico reports. "I'll be frank: I would say third place is not good," Lambert says. A DeSantis fundraiser who asked to remain anonymous told Politico that they don't see how he can "pull it together" after months of setbacks. "It went wrong early and they've corrected a lot late," the donor says. The DeSantis campaign claims polls are wrong—and spokesperson Andrew Romeo says the pressure is now on Trump and Haley to outperform Monday night, "given they are the leading spenders in the state."

On Saturday, DeSantis urged cheering supporters in Iowa to brave the freezing weather to vote in the "meaningful" contest, the Register reports. "They can throw a blizzard at us, and we are gonna fight. They can throw wind chill at us, and we are gonna fight," he said. "They can throw media narratives at us, and we are gonna fight. They can throw fake polls at us, and we are gonna fight." Allies say DeSantis is unlikely to drop out, whatever the result in Iowa is. The next competition is New Hampshire's primary, but DeSantis plans to travel straight from an event in Iowa on Monday night to Greenville, South Carolina, where his campaign says it will hold a "rousing" event Tuesday morning. (More Ron DeSantis 2024 stories.)

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