DES MOINES, Iowa – With six days to go until Iowa’s caucuses kick off the Republican presidential nominating calendar, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis no longer predicts victory and instead vows that “we’re going to do well here.”
DeSantis, at a Fox News town hall on Tuesday in Iowa’s capital and largest city, emphasized that the battle for the GOP nomination “is a long process” and pledged that he’s “in it for the long haul.”
DeSantis, who was convincingly re-elected to a second term as Florida governor 14 months ago, was once the clear alternative to former President Trump in the Republican White House race. He was solidly in second place behind Trump, who remains the commanding front-runner as he makes his third straight presidential bid.
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But after a series of campaign setbacks over the summer and autumn, DeSantis saw his support in the polls erode.
Rival Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who served as ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, in recent weeks has caught up with DeSantis for second place in the polls in Iowa and in national surveys.
Haley also surpassed DeSantis and surged to second place and narrowed the gap with Trump in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary — just eight days after Iowa.
Last month, in multiple interviews, even though he was down double digits in the polls to Trump in Iowa, DeSantis predicted victory.
“We’re going to win Iowa. We’ve got the organization in place,” the governor declared in a Fox News Digital interview in Bettendorf, Iowa a week before Christmas.
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But on Tuesday, when asked by Fox News’ “Special Report” chief political anchor Bret Baier and “The Story” executive editor and anchor Martha MacCallum — the moderators of the town hall — about his finish in a state that many consider make-or-break for him, DeSantis twice answered “we’re going to do well.”
“I kind of like having lower expectations, to be honest with you,” he added. “I’ve been an underdog my whole life and everything I’ve ever done.”
And he argued that “the media has kind of tried to go at me a little bit on that… Let them say that. We have it within our power to prove them wrong, and we will do that.”
Asked if his campaign would advance to New Hampshire regardless of his finish in Iowa, DeSantis reiterated “yes, of course.”
And DeSantis touted his get-out-the-vote efforts in Iowa, which are heavily reliant on Never Back Down, an aligned super PAC.
“We have massive numbers of people. I think we have more commits than anyone’s ever had in an Iowa caucus. We have all the counties organized. People that have been involved in this process say it’s the best yet,” he said.
Haley joined Fox News on Monday for a similar town hall, and Trump will take questions from Baier and MacCallum on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.
Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.