DeSantis still won't say whether he thinks Trump lost in 2020
DeSantis hasn't said whether he thinks Trump lost the 2020 election.
Trump continues to falsely allege widespread voter fraud in 2020.
DeSantis is likely to announce his own 2024 presidential bid in the coming weeks.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has been subtly making the case for months that he is more electable in 2024 than former President Donald Trump.
He just hasn't said directly that Trump already lost the presidential election in 2020.
Asked by a reporter on Monday to directly acknowledge Trump lost, DeSantis stated only the fact that in 2020 "Biden becomes president."
"In 2018 we lost the House," he said during a press conference in Sarasota, Florida. "We lost the Senate in 2020, Biden becomes president and it's done a huge amount of damage, very unpopular in 2022. We were supposed to have this big red wave, and other than in Florida and Iowa, I didn't see a red wave across this country."
Trump continues to falsely deny that he lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden. Polling shows that most GOP voters think the 2020 election was unfair, underscoring the tightrope DeSantis faces on the topic if he runs against Trump — a former political ally — in 2024.
To win the nomination in a field that is anticipated to have at least seven GOP contenders, DeSantis will need to win over support from Trump's base.
DeSantis is widely expected to announce a 2024 bid after finishing Florida's annual budget and signing more bills into law. After he announces, he's likely to face repeated questions about 2020 while on the campaign trail, and also on the debate stage.
Biden has made Trump's election denials central to his pitch for reelection, framing Trump's position as a threat to Democracy. But DeSantis, who is consistently the only Republican to poll second to Trump in a hypothetical 2024 field, hasn't directly said he believes Trump lost in 2020.
He repeatedly dodged such questions after the 2020 election, bragging instead that the elections went smoothly in Florida. Nevertheless, he since has tightened voting access in Florida, and campaigned alongside 2022 politicians like Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who falsely alleged widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
DeSantis himself won by nearly 20 points in former swing-state Florida, and boasted about the victory as compared with poorer showings elsewhere. For months after his gubernatorial reelection, he declined to comment about whether he would take on Trump in the 2024 nomination contest but urged voters to "look at the scoreboard."
Such remarks have been how DeSantis has largely handled Trump, at least until right before the Manhattan district attorney indicted the former president. In Iowa over the weekend, DeSantis subtly jabbed at Trump for his fixation on the 2020 election.
"We must reject the culture of losing that has impacted our party in recent years. The time for excuses is over," DeSantis said. "If we get distracted, if we focus the election on the past or on other side issues, then I think the Democrats are going to beat us again."
He reiterated this position on Monday during his press conference in Sarasota, though he once again didn't name Trump directly.
"The party has developed a culture of losing," DeSantis said Monday. "I think there's not accountability. And in Florida we really showed what it takes to not just win, but win big, and then deliver big."
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