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DeSantis acknowledges Trump's defeat in 2020 election: "Of course he lost"

Polls show Trump's dominance in GOP field
Polls show Trump far ahead of rivals for GOP nomination 05:16

Washington — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, disputing his chief rival's false claims that the election was stolen in his most definitive answer on the question to date.

The GOP presidential hopeful made the comments in an interview with NBC News airing on the "NBC Nightly News" on Monday. The Florida governor said "whoever puts their hand on the Bible on Jan. 20 every four years is the winner," while mentioning several concerns with how the 2020 presidential election was administered. Pressed for an answer on whether Trump lost, DeSantis responded, "No, of course he lost."

"Joe Biden's the president," he said.

In response to that interview, Trump spokesperson Steve Cheung told NBC News that DeSantis "should really stop being Joe Biden's biggest cheerleader."

The subject of Trump's election defeat has been a stumbling block for some GOP candidates who hope to defeat Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination, given Trump's continued popularity among the party's base. A CBS News/YouGov poll in May found that 69% of likely Republican primary voters said they don't consider President Biden to be the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. That denial has held firm despite the insistence from Trump's own election security officials that the 2020 election was the most secure in history. 

Trump now faces four felony counts stemming from special counsel Jack Smith's investigation into Trump's actions after the 2020 presidential election. The indictment alleged Trump knowingly disseminated falsehoods about widespread fraud in the election and used those claims to obstruct the transfer of power. He has pleaded not guilty and denies wrongdoing.

Other Republican presidential candidates, like former Vice President Mike Pence, haven't had a problem saying Trump lost the election. Former New Jersey governor and GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie told ABC News last month that Trump's "ego" stops him from admitting defeat.

"The fact is that he doesn't believe he won," Christie said on ABC's "This Week." "He was concerned before the election that he was losing. And I know that because he said it to me directly."

Last month, DeSantis said in an interview with CBS News that it's up to voters to decide whether Trump's legal woes should disqualify him from returning to the White House.

"At the end of the day, voters make that decision," DeSantis said. "Some people ask me like, 'Well, if somebody's indicted, should they be able to run?' The problem is we've seen political indictments. I mean, I think Bragg was political. You have these other — these people. So, that would just give any prosecutor the ability to render someone ineligible. So, I've not said that. But I also think, just at the end of the day, the election's got to be about the future."

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