Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has sparked controversy by acknowledging in an NBC interview that former President Donald J. Trump lost the 2020 election.
“Of course he lost,” DeSantis stated in a clip from the forthcoming airing of the interview. “Joe Biden’s the president.”
These comments come in the wake of DeSantis, who trails significantly behind Trump in Republican presidential nomination polls, agreeing that Trump’s contention about a “rigged” 2020 election was “unsubstantiated.”
“All those theories that were put out did not prove to be true,” DeSantis said about Trump’s election fraud allegations in response to a reporter’s question on the campaign trail in Northeast Iowa.
For years, however, DeSantis had evaded providing a clear stance on whether he believed the election was rigged. In the 2022 midterms, he campaigned for Republican candidates nationwide who explicitly denied the 2020 results were legitimate.
His increasingly opportunistic position implies that his campaign team believes Trump’s legal issues have opened a window of opportunity for his Republicans. The New York Times claims that campaign advisers are cautiously trying to expose Trump’s vulnerabilities without launching a direct assault on him regarding his most recent criminal charges.
DeSantis’s stance may place him in conflict with Trump supporters who contend that the former president was wrongfully deprived a free and fair election. About 70% of Republican voters claim President Biden’s victory was illegitimate, according to a CNN poll last month.
In response, a spokesperson for Trump, Steven Cheung, advised that “Ron DeSantis should really stop being Joe Biden’s biggest cheerleader.”
However, the DeSantis camp contends that this is merely acknowledging political reality. The Federalist’s Editor-in-Chief Mollie Hemingway attempted to set the record straight.
“This is a completely false/misleading characterization of what DeSantis said about major problems with the 2020 election,” Hemingway argued. “He has spoken out consistently and acted against the private takeover of government election offices, unsupervised ballot ops, rushed changes to law, etc.”
While DeSantis has recognized potential issues with how the 2020 election was conducted, he still firmly believes that the Republicans didn’t put up enough of a fight.
Donald Trump himself, one day after the Capitol riots on January 6, condemned the Capitol riots and acknowledged that he would no longer be president.
Never forget: Donald Trump on January 7, 2021, for the good of the country, condemned the Capitol riots and conceded that he is no longer president.
“I would like to begin by addressing the heinous attack on the United States Capitol. Like all Americans, I am outraged by the… pic.twitter.com/KV7qRmCKSK
— Kyle Becker (@kylenabecker) August 7, 2023
“Congress has certified the results,” Trump said. “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
“Serving as your president has been the honor of my lifetime and to all of my wonderful supporters,” he added. “I know you are disappointed, but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning.”
In the same NBC interview, DeSantis urged the Republicans to shift their focus from Trump’s indictments to challenging Biden. He also explained his controversial campaign promise of deadly force against suspected drug smugglers crossing the southern border.
DeSantis has also had more occasions recently to discuss sensitive issues like the 2020 election. He has been participating in more mainstream media interviews as part of his campaign “reboot,” a shift from his previous approach of only appearing on Fox News or conservative outlets.
Although DeSantis has criticized Trump for his age, failure to “drain the swamp,” and fostering a “culture of losing” in the Republican Party, he has defended him against the criminal charges. DeSantis claims these charges represent a “weaponization” of the federal government against a political rival of Biden’s.
Prominent Republican contenders Chris Christie, former New Jersey Governor, and former Vice President Mike Pence have been the most vocal in opposing Trump. Christie’s campaign is openly anti-Trump, while Pence has been reserved, though he expressed his willingness to testify in Trump’s January 6, 2021 trial if required.
Yet neither stance appears to be gaining traction among Republican voters. Both Christie and Pence struggle in national polls and with public perception. The latter has yet to qualify for the first Republican debate this month. And Governor Ron DeSantis is still hoping for a breakout moment where he can gain ground on Donald Trump, who is maintaining a comfortable lead in the 2024 campaign despite an onslaught of legal attacks.
Republican voters are cautioned to beware of media hitjobs like those of the New York Times, which is opportunistically seizing on the opportunity to drive a wedge between Trump and DeSantis supporters.