Ron DeSantis Said Donald Trump Lost the 2020 Election. Did He Make a Mistake?

AP Photo/Meg Kinnard

Well, he went and said it out loud. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stated publicly that hes believe former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. During an interview, he was asked to state his opinion on the matter plainly, for all to hear, and the governor obliged. His comments have already ignited a discussion on the airwaves and interwebs, and both sides of the debate are being argued by members of Team DeSantis and Team Trump.


It goes without saying that DeSantis’ take on the matter certainly isn’t well received by MAGA. But the question is, how will the governor’s remarks affect his presidential campaign?

During the interview, which airs Monday night on “NBC Nightly News,” Dasha Burns asked point blank: “Yes or no, did Donald Trump lose the 2020 election?”

DeSantis responded by discussing the concerns over changes to election rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mass mail-in ballots, ballot harvesting, and social media censorship:

Whoever puts their hand on the Bible on January 20th every four years is the winner. And I don’t think the election– and I’ve pointed out in that same quote, and I’ve said this from the very beginning, when they changed the rules for COVID, I think that was wrong. I think some of those changes were unconstitutional. When they do mass mail ballots, I think that’s wrong. I think ballot harvesting is wrong. I think the Zuckerburgs were wrong. I think the fact that the FBI was working with Facebook and these other tech companies to censor the Hunter Biden story was wrong. And so I don’t think it was the perfect election. I remember after, a lot of the media was saying, “This is the most secure election in history.” How could it be the most secure with those millions of mail ballots going out? On the same time, at the time, after the election, they were talking about Maduro stealing votes on the voting machines or whatever, and none of those theories proved to be true. But here’s the issue that I think is important for Republican voters to think about: Why did we have all those mail votes?


DeSantis also took a shot at the former president, saying he “turned the government over to Fauci” and “embraced lockdowns.” He also brought up the CARES Act, which “funded mail-in ballots across the country.” Trump signed the bill, a fact that the governor has been highlighting over the past week.

Burns then brought the conversation back to the question of whether Trump won the election. “No, of course, he lost,” DeSantis replied. “Of course — Joe Biden’s the president.”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where Gov. Ron DeSantis crossed the 2020 Rubicon, as my colleague Joe Cunningham so eloquently put it.

Before this interview a video made the rounds on social media in which DeSantis told reporters that Americans don’t want to continue litigating the result of the 2020 election and would rather look toward the present and future:

Let’s focus on what the American people want going forward. This election needs to be about January 20th, 2025, not January 6, 2021. We got to look forward. We got to start healing divisions in this country and all of the stuff that’s going on, I think, is just exacerbating the divisions. And so sometimes there’s a larger picture that you have to look at. And I would be looking at that larger picture, wanting to move forward for the sake of the country.


DeSantis also indicated that if he were to win the presidency, he would pardon Trump, arguing that it is not “in the best interest of the country to have a former president that’s almost 80 years old go to prison.”

“And just like Ford pardoned Nixon, sometimes you’ve got to put this stuff behind you, and we need to start focusing on things having to do with the country’s future,” DeSantis added. “This election needs to be about Jan. 20, 2025, not Jan. 6, 2021.”

Well, this is quite interesting, is it not?

During the 2022 midterm elections, the stolen election claims played a prominent role in the races. Republican candidates were expected to repeat Trump’s allegations about the race being rigged against him. It seemed to be almost a foregone conclusion that if a GOP candidate had any chance of winning, they couldn’t speak out against this narrative.

But now, it might be different.

Firstly, DeSantis rejecting the stolen election narrative could alienate members of the base who still like Trump and believe that the outcome of the election wasn’t kosher. People in this category are likely looking a bit askance at the governor for not backing up the former president. Will this prompt them to support Trump over DeSantis? It is certainly possible.


On the other hand, DeSantis’ stance might appeal to moderate Republicans and independents who might not hate Trump but aren’t necessarily gung-ho about him either. These folks are more likely to doubt claims about a stolen election and will either not care about DeSantis’ comments or might agree with him. Given that the governor’s campaign strategy has been to run to the right of Trump, his comments could lessen concerns about being too extreme.

The reactions will probably be mixed. But from my perspective, it does not appear that doubting Trump’s election claims will be the campaign killer that it might have been in 2022. While the most ardent members of the former president’s base won’t appreciate DeSantis’ lack of loyalty, these folks were not likely to back the governor in the first place. As for the rest of the Republican voting block, it probably won’t matter, even among those who believe the 2020 election was rife with funny business.

All in all, DeSantis probably didn’t hurt himself too much with his comments. But he still has much work to do if he wants to close the gap between himself and Trump.


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