Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said former President Donald J. Trump's allegations had “distorted” the Republican presidential primary, tacitly admitting that the former president's legal troubles have helped him.
“If I could change anything, I wish Trump hadn't been accused of any of this,” DeSantis said. he told Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody in an interview that aired Thursday. He added that the accusations had “just displaced, I think, a lot of other things and taken all the oxygen out of it.”
With just weeks before Iowans cast the first votes in the race, DeSantis' campaign has struggled to gain ground on Trump and has had to focus more on battling former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina for second place. place.
When DeSantis entered the race in May, he was widely considered the most viable challenger to Trump. That reputation was eroded as his campaign struggled to articulate an effective message, organize in key early primary states and protect itself against internal turmoil. Last week, DeSantis' super PAC chief strategist Jeff Roe resigned from his position.
DeSantis did not elaborate on his comments during a campaign appearance at a Veterans of Foreign Wars booth in Coralville, Iowa, on Thursday morning, and barely mentioned Trump. He did not answer questions from reporters after the event.
But DeSantis has previously expressed frustration with the attention Trump's various legal problems have attracted. “That's not what we want out of this election,” DeSantis told reporters during a campaign stop outside Des Moines on Wednesday. “What we want is a referendum on the failures of the Biden administration.”
Trump's allies and supporters have argued that the charges against him have only fueled his rise and strengthened his strength as a candidate.
In August, days before Trump was impeached in Georgia for his efforts to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss, he boasted to a crowd of supporters in Alabama that he needed “one more impeachment” to solidify his victory in the race. .
Now facing four indictments and 91 felony charges, Trump has maintained a significant lead. A new poll from The New York Times and Siena College found that even as a growing number of Republican voters believe he has committed serious federal crimes, they still support returning him to office.
And Trump's legal problems continue to grow. On Tuesday, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that he was ineligible to hold office again due to his actions related to the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The decision could exclude him from the state's primary ballot, but the campaign Trump has pledged to appeal to the US Supreme Court.
In the CBN interview, DeSantis also singled out Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought one of the cases against Trump, accusing him of “distorting justice” and abusing his power.
He also lashed out at Democratic prosecutors more generally and, as governor, has taken a particularly hard line against them. He has removed two Democratic prosecutors from office in the past two years, citing their stances on abortion and leniency for violent crimes.
Nicolas Nehamas contributed reports.
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