CONCORD, N.H. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he expects Donald Trump to try and “delegitimize” the election results if the former president ends up losing either the Iowa caucuses or New Hampshire primary.
“If Trump loses, he will say it’s stolen, no matter what. Absolutely. He will try to delegitimize the results,” DeSantis told reporters on Friday during a question and answer session after holding a town hall in New Hampshire’s capital city.
DeSantis noted that Trump “did that against Ted Cruz in 2016,” as he referred to Trump’s tweet after narrowly losing the caucuses to the firebrand conservative senator from Texas that “Ted Cruz didn’t win Iowa, he stole it.”
The former president for three years has repeatedly made unproven claims that his 2020 election loss to President Biden was due to a “rigged” election and “massive voter fraud.”
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And Trump made history earlier this year as the first former or current president to be indicted for a crime, but his four indictments — including in federal court in Washington, D.C., and in Fulton County court in Georgia — on charges he tried to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss.
DeSantis argued that, “I don’t think people are going to buy it.
Trump remains the commanding front-runner in the 2024 GOP presidential nomination race, as he makes his third straight White House run.
DeSantis is currently a very distant second to Trump in the latest polls in Iowa, where the Jan. 15 caucuses kick off the GOP nominating calendar.
And in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary and votes second after Iowa on Jan. 23, DeSantis is in fourth place, far behind Trump and also trailing former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, as well as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is making his second White House bid.
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As the first votes in the race for the Republican nomination draw closer, DeSantis has been turning up the volume on his criticism of Trump.
In his conversation with the crowd at his town hall, and in answering reporter questions, he repeatedly jabbed at Trump for failing to follow through on campaign promises, for being too old to serve again as president, and for skipping out on debating his rivals for the Republican nomination.
“He’s promising the same things he did in ’16 that he didn’t deliver. And now he’s just running on the same stuff again,” he argued. “You know, we didn’t get a wall. We didn’t get the swamp drained. He said he was going to go after Hillary [Clinton] and then let her off the hook two weeks after the election.”
Speaking with reporters, DeSantis asked,”’Why won’t he [Trump] debate. Why not?’ And I do think he would not perform the way they remember the Trump from 2015 and ’16. I think that’s the real reason he’s not debating.”
And the governor argued that Trump is “a different guy now and I think he owes it to actually show up and answer questions.”
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DeSantis also targeted Trump for not engaging with voters.
“When is the last time he stood on a stage and just took questions from voters?” DeSantis asked. “Has he done that at any point in this campaign? He certainly hasn’t done it on a debate stage. How often has he been willing to go and really answer the tough questions… people want to see you earn it.”
Asked for a response, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung argued in a statement to Fox News that, “Ron DeSantis is acting out on his Lincoln Project fantasies and doing his best impression of a Never Trumper by reciting Democrat talking points peddled by Crooked Joe Biden and his campaign.”
And Cheung charged that “when Ron’s political career is finished in a few weeks, he can start moonlighting as a Democrat surrogate because he’s showing everyone his true colors.”
The Lincoln Project is a political action committee formed four years ago by Republicans and former members of the GOP who oppose Trump.
DeSantis returned to New Hampshire three days after popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu endorsed Haley in the state’s Republican presidential primary.
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Sununu, a vocal GOP critic of Trump, had said for weeks that he was deciding between Haley, Christie and DeSantis.
DeSantis told Fox News that Sununu’s backing of Haley wouldn’t change his campaign strategy in the Granite State, saying “I wasn’t necessarily expecting that.”
“Chris is great, a great campaigner and all that,” DeSantis added arguing that “ultimately, Nikki Haley is an establishment candidate. That does not do well in these Republican primaries. That is starting to become more and more apparent to voters as she’s gotten more attention.”
Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.