Trump campaign mocks DeSantis argument that Haley, other GOP rivals are playing ‘spoiler’ in 2024 contest

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Former President Trump’s presidential campaign scoffed at new arguments made by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ team that the 2024 Republican nomination is a two-man race, with everyone else playing spoiler.  

‘If it’s a two-man race, why the hell is DeSanctimonious spending money and resources attacking Nikki ‘Birdbrain’ Haley?’ Trump spokesman Steven Cheung told Fox News Digital in a text message. ‘He knows she’s overtaken him in polls, and he is falling like a wounded bird out of the sky,’  

In the wake of yesterday’s endorsement by Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, the DeSantis presidential campaign is once again trying to frame the Florida governor as the only viable alternative to Trump in the GOP presidential primary. 

‘Simply put, without Ron DeSantis in this primary, Trump is the Republican nominee,’ the DeSantis campaign argues in a new memo released Tuesday morning. 

‘Nikki Haley and others are, at best, simply playing the role of spoiler – exponentially increasing the odds of a Trump nomination,’ the memo states.

The memo – first reported by The Associated Press – outlines DeSantis’ underdog strategy to pull off a ‘big win’ in Iowa that would clear the 2024 Republican primary field. DeSantis has concentrated the vast majority of his campaign trail time and resources in Iowa the past couple of months and has so far made stops in 87 of the Hawkeye State’s 99 counties.

‘Everyone can universally agree that if Trump were to win big in Iowa it would create media and political momentum for his candidacy that would be difficult to stop heading into New Hampshire,’ DeSantis campaign manager James Uthmeier, deputy manager David Polyansky and senior adviser Ryan Tyson wrote. 

‘Additionally, a Trump loss or even a close battle in the Hawkeye State will reveal his political vulnerabilities and inspire Republican voters across the country who are either in the ‘not for Trump’ or ‘consider Trump and others’ camps,’ the memo states.

The Haley campaign did not respond to a request for comment. 

In her own memo, Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney on Monday described the Iowa contest as a ‘dead heat’ between DeSantis and Haley, while ignoring Trump’s massive lead.

‘The Iowa Caucuses are in just over two months. The New Hampshire primary is just 8 days after that. And Nikki Haley is the only candidate who is positioned to do well in both,’ Ankney wrote, according to The Associated Press. ‘EVEN IF DeSantis were to do well in Iowa, which is a big ‘if’ given his current decline, he is in such a weak position in New Hampshire and South Carolina that it doesn’t matter. He has no end game.’

Trump remains the commanding frontrunner in the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination as he makes his third straight White House run. He saw his lead expand over his rivals during the spring and summer as he made history as the first former or current president in American history to be indicted for a crime. Trump’s four indictments – including in federal court in Washington, D.C., and in Fulton County court in Georgia on charges he tried to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss – have only fueled his support among Republican voters.


Although the DeSantis campaign wants to spin the race as a two-man contest, the reality on the ground is that Haley has leapfrogged DeSantis in many of the latest polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina for second place. The latest major poll in Iowa – from the Des Moines Register/NBC News released last week – indicated Haley moving into a second-place tie with DeSantis.

Seeking to capitalize on that momentum, the Haley campaign released a new ad Tuesday morning that attacks DeSantis over energy policy. 

The video serves as a potential preview for a Haley line of attack at tomorrow night’s third GOP presidential primary debate.

The video begins with Haley – at the Fox Business debate at the Reagan Library in late September, charging that DeSantis is ‘against fracking, against drilling’ with DeSantis responding that the allegations are ‘not true.’

The ad includes several clips of DeSantis stating during his tenure in Tallahassee saying that he opposes offshore drilling and touting policies against fracking. The ad ends with a voter asking the Florida governor if he supports a ban on fracking, to which he replies, ‘Yeah.’

Haley previously took aim at DeSantis’ support for an offshore oil drilling ban in his state during the second Republican presidential debate in September. 

‘You banned fracking, you banned offshore drilling — you did it on federal lands and you took green subsidies that you didn’t have to take,’ she charged.

DeSantis appeared to laugh during Haley’s remarks before rejecting that he opposed fracking or drilling on federal lands.

He then noted a Florida constitutional amendment passed in 2018 that bans offshore drilling three miles into the Atlantic Ocean and nine miles into the Gulf of Mexico. The measure was passed by voters to protect marine wildlife that would be impacted by such activity.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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