Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday dismissed rumors that he would drop out of the 2024 presidential race if he were to lose to former President Donald Trump at the Iowa caucuses on January 15.
“That’s a lie. Yeah, that’s a total lie,” DeSantis told an audience member during a campaign stop in a suburb of Iowa Sunday morning. “When they’re doing that they are trying to trick you guys by doing this. They’re going to do some anonymous source. They do this to me all the time. They say, ‘anonymous sources have said this, and then they run with it.”
Earlier in his talk, DeSantis assured an audience member that he would stay in the race past the Iowa caucuses.
“Make no mistake, we’ve got a mission. We’ve got to complete a mission. It’s a long process. It’s an arduous process,” DeSantis said. “I think Iowa is going to be a great place for us to start the process. But we certainly have a lot of road after that. And we’re girded for the long battle.”
Speaking with Fox News’ Bill Melugin on the sidelines, DeSantis reiterated his assertion that rumors of a pending dropout were a lie.
“That report is categorically false,” DeSantis said.
Being the first state to cast votes for presidential nominees, Iowa’s caucuses set the stage for the entire primary season. Winning or performing strongly in Iowa can generate crucial momentum for candidates, influencing voter perceptions of their viability.
DeSantis is in an increasingly testy contest with former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley to emerge in Iowa as the preferred alternative to Trump for the party’s 2024 nomination.
DeSantis has said he expects to win Iowa despite trailing far behind Trump in polls. He portrays Haley, who was Trump’s U.N. ambassador, as a puppet of wealthy donors and someone who has flip-flopped on key issues.
DeSantis would upend the race if he were to beat Trump in the caucuses. Haley’s allies believe they could hobble DeSantis if she finishes ahead of him. The thinking is that a second-place finish would give her a boost before New Hampshire’s Jan. 23 primary and a chance to take on Trump directly in South Carolina a month later.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.