"But clearly, Donald Trump is the runaway frontrunner," Cortes added. Previously, Cortes supported Trump and worked on his 2016 and 2020 campaigns.
Trump is untouchable so far in the runup to the Republican primary race, even as DeSantis has enjoyed some modest gains. Still, Cortes admitted the governor is the "underdog" in the race.
"We’re down double digits. We have work to do," Cortes said. He added that they want to win, but even if DeSantis loses, he will sharpen Trump and make him "better" going into the general election.
"If we do not prevail — and I have every intent on winning, I didn’t sign up for this to come in second — but if we do not prevail, I will tell you this, we will make President Trump better for having this kind of primary," Cortes said. He pointed out that Trump hasn't "gained" additional voters between his 2020 loss and now.
However, among Republicans, Trump still remains as popular as ever. The former president has a 28-point lead over DeSantis in New Hampshire, according to a recent Anselm College Survey Center survey.
That same poll showed that DeSantis has slipped 10 points since March while Trump has bumped up his support by five points, giving the former president 47% support. In South Carolina, Trump is ahead of DeSantis by 23 points, according to last week's National Public Affairs poll.
A Morning Consult poll also released last week showed that 57% of Republican primary voters wanted Trump as their nominee. That same poll had DeSantis with only 19% supporting him.
The July polls will be the most important as they are used to figure out who will be invited to participate in the Republican National Committee's debate on August 23. There are rumblings that Trump has chosen his own programming and won't participate, a fact which Cortes believes will help DeSantis since Trump is so much better at it.
"Is Ron the debater that Trump is?" Cortes asked rhetorically. "No, no he isn’t. Absolutely, Donald Trump is the maestro of it, right? No doubt about it, right?” Cortes added.
"When he gets on the debate stage, you know, and on his feet, in front of a microphone, he debates like Jack Nicklaus played golf. There’s no doubt about it," Cortes reiterated.
The face-off between Trump and DeSantis will be one to watch. Trump has the advantage of better tactics and popularity, but the governor is a proven winner in the arena of politics and just might pull it off in the end.