Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said “of course” Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, his the most direct comments on the matter in the nearly three years since the former president’s defeat.
“Of course he lost,” DeSantis told NBC News in an interview that aired Sunday. “Joe Biden’s the president.”
The remarks follow DeSantis’ comments on Friday in which he told reporters in Decorah, Iowa, that “theories” put out by the former president and his associates following the 2020 election were “unsubstantiated” and “did not prove to be true.”
DeSantis had previously avoided such forceful pronouncements about Trump’s defeat. He was among the first to suggest that state legislatures could change election results in certain states, earning public praise from Trump’s inner circle at the time. In the years after, though, DeSantis has largely ducked questions about the veracity of the election results.
Yet DeSantis continues to argue it was not a “perfect election” – citing actions taken by states to ease voting access during the pandemic – and went on to criticize Trump for funding mail-in ballots through the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in 2020 in response to the coronavirus crisis.
“But here’s the issue that I think is important for Republican voters to think about: Why did we have all those mail votes? Because of Trump turned the government over to (Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases). They embraced lockdowns. They did the CARES Act, which funded mail-in ballots across the country,” DeSantis told NBC.
Unmentioned by DeSantis is that he once praised the CARES Act when it was signed, saying it provided “critical resources” in the fight against Covid-19.
“We thank President Trump for this much-needed support and look forward to our continued work to defeat Covid-19 and emerge stronger than before,” DeSantis said at the time.
Nor did DeSantis note that he, too, took unilateral action as governor to let local election offices process mail-in ballots earlier than state law allows to address concerns about adequate staffing and a surge in voting remotely due to the coronavirus. Elsewhere, Republican state legislatures blocked Democratic requests to take similar measures in states like Pennsylvania, where the prolonged counting of ballots became fodder for election conspiracies.
Voting by mail is incredibly popular in Florida, including by voters from his party. Nearly 2.8 million Floridians voted by mail in 2022 – when DeSantis was reelected by a historically wide margin – including more than 1 million registered Republicans.
As he often does when faced with questions about the 2020 election, DeSantis in his interview with NBC motioned toward the future and how the 2024 election must be a “referendum on Joe Biden’s policies” and “failures” rather than relitigating the past.
He argued Republicans will lose if they focus on “January 6, 2021, or what document was left by the toilet at Mar-a-Lago.” However, as Trump stares down three criminal indictments related to the alleged mishandling of classified documents, hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and efforts to overturn the 2020 election, these issues have taken center stage, all while Trump maintains an overwhelming lead.
On Friday in Waverly, Iowa, DeSantis made the case for “healing divisions” and moving beyond Trump’s legal woes.
“We got to look forward. We got to start healing divisions in this country,” DeSantis told reporters. “All of this stuff that’s going on, I think it’s just exacerbating the divisions. And so sometimes there’s a larger picture that you have to look at, and I will be looking at that larger picture wanting to move forward for the sake of the country.”