A former adviser for former President Donald Trump turned spokesperson for Ron DeSantis’ main super PAC admitted that the Florida governor’s 2024 presidential campaign is “way behind” in the polls. 

Steve Cortes, the national spokesman for the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down, made the comment during a Twitter Spaces discussion Sunday with @CryptoLawyerz, an anonymous user and purported former Justice Department official, professor and trial attorney popular among the America First conservative movement. 

“Right now in national polling we are way behind, I’ll be the first to admit that,” Cortes said. 

“I believe in being blunt and honest. It’s an uphill battle, but clearly Donald Trump is the runaway front-runner,” he continued. “In the first four states which matter tremendously, polls are a lot tighter, we are still clearly down. We’re down double digits, we have work to do.”

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Former Donald Trump adviser Steve Cortes speaks at an election-night party for Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey on June 28, 2022. Cortes endorsed Ron DeSantis in May. (Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)

“I think that Ron DeSantis is the next natural evolution of the America First Movement and will be, I believe, an incredible nominee, an incredible president,” Cortes added. “Trump has been the dominant figure in American politics for now eight years basically – or certainly for seven years – and certainly the dominant and most admired figure for Republican voters. We are trying to, and we must, make the case to those voters that this is natural next evolution of the movement.”

While Cortes commended Trump on principle, he argued the former president lacked implementation, adding, “While I was intensely loyal to Trump for many, many years – and I still have great admiration for him – I’m loyal to him in a sense of affinity, but I’m not loyal to him in a sense that means that today he is the best candidate.” 

DeSantis addresses Faith and Freedom conference

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers remarks at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference on June 23, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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“I don’t believe he is. I don’t believe that he is the most conservative, patriotic, populous candidate who can win the general election,” Cortes said. “I am of the belief that Donald Trump, unfortunately since 2020, has not gained voters. I think he has gained hardly any voters, and I think he has shed quite a few.”  

Asked about his Twitter Spaces discussion by Politico, Cortes said Trump “has debated through two successive presidential cycles, so of course he possesses a lot of experience in that arena. But I am convinced that Gov. DeSantis will outperform expectations and inform large audiences about his amazing life, political record, and winning agenda for the presidency.”

“Taking on an incumbent or former president in the primary always represents a significant challenge. I gladly embraced that reality in joining the team. All of us on Team DeSantis remain convinced that the governor has a strong path to the nomination, and the best chance of any Republican to defeat Biden in the general election,” Cortes added. 

Trump on stage in South Carolina

Former President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd at a campaign event on July 1, 2023, in Pickens, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Trump so far has maintained a double-digit lead over all GOP 2024 presidential rivals, including DeSantis. 

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“Ron Desantis has been underestimated in every race he has won, and this time will be no different. Donald Trump has to explain to Republican voters why he didn’t do the things he is now promising in his first term as president,” DeSantis campaign spokesperson Bryan Griffin told Politico. “Gov. Ron DeSantis over-delivered on his promises as governor and has the national vision we need to restore our country, clean out D.C., and lead our Great American Comeback. This campaign is a marathon, not a sprint; we will be victorious.”

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