Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign said on Tuesday the struggling candidate wouldn’t consider accepting the vice presidential slot on a Donald Trump ticket as the former president widens his polling lead over the 2024 Republican presidential primary field.

“No, Ron DeSantis has made very clear he's in this to be president of the United States and not to be somebody to do things for the American people,” DeSantis campaign spokesperson Carly Atchinson said on Newsmax when asked by a host if her boss would consider being Trump’s number two. “If Donald Trump were to somehow beat Joe Biden and make it to the White House. He would be a lame duck on day one. We need somebody who can go in and serve for eight years.”

“If Donald Trump wants to be the vice president, maybe we could talk about that, but Ron DeSantis is running to be president. He’s not running to be vice president or serve in somebody’s cabinet,” she added.

What You Need To Know

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday laid out his economic vision for the country if he’s elected president, targeting China, environmentally minded policies, immigration and more

  • The speech came at a time when DeSantis is trying to reinvigorate his campaign as polls show him sliding farther behind former President Donald Trump for the GOP nomination

  • DeSantis presented a 10-pronged strategy for the economy, which includes taking a firmer stand on China, achieving energy independence and more

  • Ahead of the speech Monday morning, the Democratic National Committee issued a statement in which it called DeSantis’ economic vision “extreme” and attacked his record as governor

DeSantis has said as much himself. He said he wouldn’t accept the offer in March, when he trailed Trump by 15% nationally, and in July, when he trailed by 30%, and again in October, when he trailed by 40%.

But as of Wednesday, Trump holds support among 60% of the GOP primary electorate on average, a 2023 high watermark according to the polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight. DeSantis is sitting in distant second at around 13% and, as a term-limited governor who will leave office in 2027 — just as the 2028 presidential primary campaign kicks off — he faces the dilemma of whether he should retreat for now or continue antagonizing his party’s most popular leader and the majority of Republicans who support him.

On Monday, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said the onetime ally of the former president was “digging his political grave” by opposing the Republican Party’s standard bearer.

For his part, Trump said he “never thought of” considering DeSantis for his vice president slot on the 2024 ticket — his last vice president, Mike Pence, dropped out of the primaries earlier this month and is loathed by many Trump supporters — in March. But he had thought of it: in April 2021, he said on Fox News “certainly, Ron would be considered. He’s a great guy.” 

Trump also said he would consider Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy for vice president in August, but the far-right candidate has said he’d rather stay in the private sector than be “number two or three in the federal government.”

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the only contender left in the race who served in Trump’s administration, has grown increasingly critical of her former boss and he and his supporters have responded with insults and antipathy. Even if bridges could be mended, it is unlikely Haley or DeSantis would be chosen. Both represent red states that Trump won twice and in the last fifty years, only four of the 19 Democratic and Republican presidential nominees chose a former foe as their running mate, according to FiveThirtyEight.

As the candidate field shrinks and the first votes of the race rapidly approach, DeSantis has also sharpened his criticisms of Trump — citing age concerns, broken campaign promises, unfavorable general election polling among independents and in a head-to-head race with Biden, among other attacks — in an attempt to consolidate the non-Trump portions of the party. With Haley approaching or surpassing him in national and key early state polls, DeSantis is running out of time and supporters to make a realistic push at beating either rival next year.

“This is not the same guy as the Trump in 2015 and [2016]. That Trump would show up on the debate stage. He barnstormed, you know. Yes, he was off color, he was edgy. But it was all part of an idea that he was really going to shake things up,” DeSantis said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Now he's wedded to the teleprompter, he's not willing to debate. And he's running on many of the same things he promised to do in 2016 and didn't deliver.”

“I wouldn't be running unless I thought that the Democrats would beat Trump if he were the nominee,” the Florida governor added.

At a Newsmax town hall in Iowa on Monday night, DeSantis challenged Trump to a 1-on-1 debate. The former president has skipped all three Republican primary debates so far and has no plans to attend future ones, arguing he is so far ahead in the polls that his would-be challengers haven’t earned his presence. The Florida governor, in a bid to bolster his campaign, is set to debate California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, on Fox News later this month.

DeSantis began the year rivaling Trump in popularity among the GOP primary electorate, but now trails the race’s frontrunner by nearly 50 percentage points nationally and almost 30 percentage points in Iowa — whose caucusgoers will have first say on their party’s nominee in January. DeSantis, who says he has visited 98 of Iowa’s 99 counties so far, has focused his efforts on the state in the hopes a good performance there can propel him to success in the primaries that follow.

“It's going to set the tone for the rest of the race,” Atchinson said of Iowa on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of people who haven’t made up their minds. We see this very much as a two man race.”

When Newsmax host Rob Finnerty pointed out previous Iowa caucus GOP victors — former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in 2012 and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in 2016 — failed to secure the nomination, Atchinson dismissed those concerns. She argued Trump’s massive lead can be chalked up to his status as a former president and two-time Republican nominee. If DeSantis can win in Iowa, his surprise upset would upend expectations that Trump’s triumph is inevitable.

But he would have to stave off Haley and other remaining contenders — Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum — to garner enough support to prove a formidable challenger to Trump. And if anyone has momentum it’s Haley, who has risen as DeSantis has declined in the polls and now leads him in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the states hosting the primary’s second and third contests.

But DeSantis’ campaign, while attacking Haley as hard if not more critically than they do Trump, claims they are unconcerned.

“I think Nikki Haley is threatened by Ron DeSantis, which is why she continues to attack him spend money against him. Donald Trump is threatened by Ron DeSantis, which is why he has spent over $25 million attacking Ron DeSantis. He continues to attack Ron DeSantis every single day,” Atchinson said. “Every candidate in this race is afraid of DeSantis because they know he's the candidate to beat.”

Haley’s campaign on Tuesday highlighted an NBC News article that reported on infighting at the super PAC pouring tens of millions of dollars into supporting DeSantis, specifically over their strategy to take on the former South Carolina governor.

“The Ron DeSantis campaign admits its multiple attempts to attack Nikki Haley have backfired in spectacular fashion,” Haley’s campaign said in a statement. “Future attempts will have the same result.”

But Trump’s campaign argued neither challenger had much to celebrate.

“In between the catfights, the DeSanctimonians have realized that they have no chance of catching President Trump,” the campaign said in a statement on Tuesday, saying the pair were vying to be “first place loser” to Trump. “The DeSantasy is coming to a cold and bitter end, whether Ron accepts it or not.”