Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said Friday that he expected Donald J. Trump to claim that the Iowa caucuses had been “stolen” if the former president, who currently leads DeSantis by about 30 points in that state, is defeated there next year. . month.
“If Trump loses, he will say he was robbed no matter what, absolutely,” DeSantis said, responding to a reporter in New Hampshire who had asked whether Trump would accept the results of the first contest in the Republican presidential primary on Jan. 15. or the New Hampshire primary about a week later. “He will try to delegitimize the results. He did it against Ted Cruz in 2016.”
DeSantis added that Trump had protested “even when 'The Apprentice' didn't get an Emmy,” referring to the former president's former television show.
Throughout the 2024 campaign, Trump and his allies have continued to insist that he defeated President Biden in 2020. The constant chorus of falsehoods appears to have seeped into the consciousness of many Republicans. Nearly 60 percent of Republican voters believe Biden's election was illegitimate, a poll conducted by The Associated Press earlier this year found.
For several years, DeSantis appeared to play both sides of the manufactured controversy over the 2020 election. As governor, he created a new law enforcement unit to police the integrity of Florida's elections. Before last year's midterm elections, he campaigned with Republicans who had vociferously denied the results. But he never explicitly endorsed the theory that the election had been stolen and repeatedly dodged questions about whether he accepted Biden's victory.
During his presidential campaign, DeSantis has courted voters in the Trump wing of the Republican Party, making it difficult for him to say the former president was wrong.
Only in August, after being pressed repeatedly during an interview with NBC News, did DeSantis acknowledge the truth and say of Trump: “Of course he lost. “Joe Biden is the president.”
In 2016, Trump claimed to have defeated Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, in that year's Iowa caucuses, although he actually suffered a narrow defeat.
Those repeated accusations of voter fraud, DeSantis argued during his Friday appearance in New Hampshire, have led voters to take Trump less seriously.
“I don't think people are going to buy it,” he said.
In response to DeSantis' comments, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung accused the Florida governor of “reciting Democratic talking points.”
“When Ron's political career ends in a few weeks, he will be able to begin working as a Democratic surrogate because he is showing everyone his true colors,” Cheung said in a statement Friday.
Trump's campaign has already accused DeSantis' team of trying to “rig” the caucuses because of comments made by his wife, Casey DeSantis. Last week, Ms. DeSantis encouraged out-of-state supporters to participate in the caucuses. But only Iowa residents can vote in state elections, and DeSantis later clarified that she had been asking people to volunteer for her husband.
Whether Trump ends up alleging fraud in Iowa may well remain a hypothetical question. Polls show the former president's support in Iowa would have to collapse for him to lose. And he leads his main rivals in New Hampshire by an average of more than 25 points.
So far in the campaign, DeSantis has spent more time fighting for second place against Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, than he has facing Trump.
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