Aug 7, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis says Republicans will lose if election is about Jan. 6 and Trump

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NBC News correspondent Dasha Burns and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: NBC News

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warns in a new interview that Republicans will lose the upcoming election if the race becomes a "referendum" on the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and former President Trump's legal woes.

Why it matters: DeSantis, battling growing gloom and donor skepticism as Trump surges ahead of him in the polls, tells NBC News that the 2024 campaign should focus on President Biden — not Trump.

What they're saying: "If the election is a referendum on Joe Biden's policies and the failures that we've seen, and we are presenting a positive vision for the future, we will win the presidency," DeSantis said in his first formal broadcast network interview since launching his presidential campaign.

  • "If, on the other hand, the election is not about January 20th, 2025, but January 6th, 2021, or what document was left by the toilet at Mar-a-Lago, if it's a referendum on that, we are going to lose," he said.

Zoom in: DeSantis also pushed back on Trump's false claims that he won the last presidential election.

  • "Of course he lost," DeSantis told NBC News' Dasha Burns.
  • "Joe Biden's the president," he added. "But the issue is, I think what people in the media and elsewhere, they want to act like somehow this was just like the perfect election."

Zoom out: DeSantis and Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis, who joined the interview, also talked about what it's been like to campaign across the country with their three young children.

  • DeSantis said that before they went to Iowa, he showed the kids the movie "Field of Dreams."
  • Once there, DeSantis said, he and his son played catch at the county fair, "right next to a bunch of corn."
  • "And my son said, 'Is this heaven?' And I said, 'No. It's Iowa.' Because he remembers it from the movie. So they've really, I think, enjoyed being able to do that, and have the experience."

Casey, for her part, said she's "always wanted a Winnebago to travel the country" with her husband anyway.

  • "So now it's like perfect," she said.
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