Ron DeSantis: If We Are Fighting About What Happened in 2020 Republicans are Going to Lose

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a 2024 GOP Presidential Candidate, joined the Guy Benson Show on Wednesday. On the show , he and Guy discussed a number of things, including the importance of moving on from the 2020 election and the upcoming debate with Gavin Newsom.


Watch the full interview below:

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Full Transcript:

GUY BENSON, FOX RADIO HOST:  Pleased to welcome back to our air Governor Ron DeSantis, Republican of Florida. He is seeking the Republican nomination for president of the United States.

Governor, great to have you back.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Hey, it’s great to be back. How you doing?

BENSON:  I’m doing well.

I’m excited for one week from today. We will both be in Milwaukee. I will be there covering it. You will be participating in the first Republican debate. Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum will be hosting and moderating that evening. It’s one week from right now, FOX News Channel, in prime time.

And I’m just wondering how your prep is going, how you’re sort of thinking about that type of a forum and whether you’re preparing as if Donald Trump will be there or won’t be there.

DESANTIS:  We’re preparing for anything under the sun.

Clearly, we assume he may be there. Some people say not, and so we will be — we will be ready either way. I think that, yes, there will be some differences whether he’s there or not, but — but, by and large, we expect to be the guy that fields the most attacks.

If you look at how this field develops, clearly, I’m the only guy that Trump’s campaign attacks, basically. And then the other candidates, a lot of them don’t really say much about Donald Trump, and they — they focus more on me.

So, we’re going to be ready for all of that. It’ll give us an opportunity to be able to speak to a large audience of voters who have not yet paid attention to this primary. I mean, you could have 10, 15, 20 million viewers, most of whom have probably never seen any of us in action before.

So, it gives us an ability to articulate our core message of this country’s in decline, we need to reverse the decline, here’s how I’m going to do it, but also let them know a little bit about me as an individual, as a dad, as a veteran, and as a governor.

So I think it’s a great opportunity, and I’m looking forward to participating.

BENSON:  Yes, I have seen some of the reports out there and sort of political commentary saying, yes, it’s going to be knives out for Ron DeSantis, whether Trump’s on stage or not.

He will come after you, obviously, if he’s up there. If he’s not, others will as well. There was also a statistic I just saw. I think it was yesterday or the day before. They had a breakdown of the spending, the negative spending in the race so far, in terms of dollars spent attacking a candidate, and it wasn’t even close.

You were number one, well above Biden, Trump, or anyone else. You were — like, eight figures has been spent against you negatively so far. What do you make of that, the fact that the conventional wisdom is, everyone’s going to be coming for you, and all this money has been spent against you already?

DESANTIS:  Well, ever since we won reelection in Florida by such a historic margin, people have identified me as a threat.

The Democrats have identified me as a threat. Biden, Harris, they spend more time attacking me than anybody else. The media, they have been after me. I have probably had more hit pieces from the corporate press than any other candidate running.

And then, of course, Donald Trump, he started running ads against me months before I was even a declared candidate for president. I was literally down in Florida racking up all these big, historic victories that conservatives have been waiting for, for a long time, things like universal school choice, constitutional carry for Second Amendment, and he’s dropping negative commercials against me while I’m doing that.

And most people were really happy with what we’re doing. So that’s just kind of par for the course. But I think the reason is, is because they know, once voters key in, once they learn about me, my bio, my family, our record, and our vision, they know that that’s going to be positive in a Republican primary.

And so they’re going to do whatever they can to try to ding me along the way. But you know what? That’s just politics. That’s how it goes. But you can tell what people really think with how they behave in politics, because they can say one thing, but if they’re focusing on one guy, that means that that guy’s a threat.

And I think they see what we’re doing in some of these early states, like Iowa, where we have a great organization, where we’re building really durable support, and it takes time to do that, but we have had a lot of success. So we’re going to continue to do that. We’re ready to field any incoming that people want to throw at us, and we will be ready to go.

BENSON:  Now, some of the polling has shown that you’re down substantially, everyone is, to Donald Trump. He’s up 20, 30, 40 points nationally and in some of these early states as well.

It kind of makes sense potentially for him then not to participate in a debate. His whole thrust of his candidacy, the way they’re running it, basically, is as if he’s an incumbent. They’re running as if he’s the incumbent, which he’s not, obviously. He lost to Joe Biden.

But, at least from a Republican perspective, he had been president of the United States. The attacks on you have landed, at least to some extent. I think the indictments have benefited him with the Republican electorate, because they feel defensive of him. They feel like this is all being weaponized against him.

So, if you’re the front-runner up 30 or 40 points, maybe not showing up and risking it could make some sense. What’s the argument that he should come and debate you and the others?

DESANTIS:  Because you have to earn this nomination. Nobody’s entitled to it. You got to get up there and you got to answer questions. You got to be able to defend your record.

You got to be talking about your vision for the future. And I think that he — you know, they want to create the narrative that somehow he’s inevitable. But I think the fact that they frantically attack me all the time shows that they don’t actually believe that.

When I was at the Iowa State Fair with Kim Reynolds, that’s when they did their counterprogram. I think he was on the ground for 45 or 50 minutes. I was the only candidate he cared about in Iowa. He came because I was there and he wanted to try to take some of the attention away from us.

So, if you already had it in the bag, you would not worry about any other candidate. I have been in races where I had it in the bag. I was not out there attacking people that I was 40 or 50 points ahead of. So, he owes it to people to go up there and debate. He needs to tell people — first of all, I mean, they’re going to ask about a lot of his unfulfilled promises from when he ran in 2016.

I mean, for example, he’s out there now saying he’s going to do a special counsel to go after Joe Biden. Guy, I was at these rallies in 2016. The number one thing they would say, “Lock her up, lock her up.” He said he was going to hold Hillary accountable.

He got elected. Two weeks later, he said:  Oh, never mind, we’re not going to do that.

He let her off the hook. So, you have Republicans, including me, who’ve complained about a two-tier justice system, about how somebody who’s connected to the D.C. elite like Hunter Biden can get off with a slap on the wrist and not be pursued the way they are, how Hillary, that investigation was a joke. They didn’t even do a grand jury.

And yet, Republicans, they go after guns blazing, including Donald Trump. But yet Donald Trump had a chance to fix that, and he didn’t do it. Now he says he’s going to do it with Biden, but I don’t know why we would believe him now, when he didn’t follow through in the past.

And so there’s things that he’s going to have to answer for then. It’s also the case that this election should not be about the past. We should not be arguing about all these past controversies. We need to focus on the future. We need to focus on the fact that our country’s in a state of decline, that people out there want a different direction.

And we need to show them how we’re going to reverse the decline and restore the American dream. You have people — I mean, I was in Iowa. I met a lady who, you know, they got four kids outside of Des Moines. And she’s talking about how much the groceries have gone up, how much their energy costs have gone up, how it’s hard to afford a new car.

These are middle-class people who are doing everything right, who are working hard, and they’re seeing the American dream slip away. If we can’t do well for those types of Americans, this country is not going to succeed. But that’s what the election needs to be about. It can’t be about you as an individual candidate and all these other issues.

BENSON:  Well, and you were talking about looking backward.

That actually is a segue into my next question. The former president on his TRUTH Social platform yesterday put out a statement saying that he’s going to give a big presentation next week with new proof or irrefutable proof, he says, that Georgia was stolen from him.

And then there was a refutation of that from the Republican governor down in Georgia, Brian Kemp, who said, no, the election wasn’t stolen in 2020.

It seems like the Democrats are very, very excited about the prospect of relitigating 2020 and early 2021, and it seems like so is Donald Trump. And I just wonder, first of all, do you accept the fact that he did lose the state of Georgia? And what do you make of his not just willingness, but apparent eagerness to go back and fight these fights over and over again about stuff that happened a couple of years ago that does not resonate with most voters.

DESANTIS:  If we are fighting about what happened in 2020 or January 6, 2021, if that is what the election ends up about, Joe Biden is going to be hanging out in his basement in Delaware again, not a care in the world, and Republicans are going to lose.

That’s just the reality. People, average voters do not want to do those debates again. First of all, I don’t — I think that they just want to look forward. But second of all, those debates are not going to help address the issues that so many voters care about. So we need to move forward on all this.

There is nothing that the media would like better than to relitigate all the different things regarding Donald Trump and all these things. There’s nothing that the Democratic Party would like better than to relitigate all these things with Donald Trump in the past.

That is a loser for us going forward as a party. And here’s the thing. The public overall wants to move on from Biden. They know he’s not done a good job. They think the country is going in the wrong direction. They want to see a new direction. But if their choice is going, looking backwards and relitigating all this stuff, they are not going to sign up for that, and Biden is going to end up getting elected.

And so I think we just have a choice to make here about focusing on the past versus focusing on the future. I’m going to be focusing on the future, and that’s the way you win elections.

BENSON:  Yes. And I will — I’m going to be talking about this later in the show. I have a number of other things to point out in this same vein.

Just very quickly, just looking back, because it’s playing out right now, are you in agreement with Governor Kemp that that election was not stolen in his state in 2020?

DESANTIS:  I take Brian as the authority on that. I think he was overseeing it. I think they have looked at this a lot of times, and I think Brian has done a good job.

And just like I can say in Florida, we did it right in Florida, because I took the reins. I took the bull by the horns, and I made sure that our election was sound. And you know what? In Florida, people have confidence in the election about what happened, because it was run professionally, transparently.

We didn’t change the rules. We didn’t have ballot harvesting, none of that. I do, though, understand how a lot of people around the country look at how some of these elections have been conducted, and they have lost confidence in how these elections are run. When it takes days or weeks to count ballots, that’s wrong. When you have ballot harvesting, that’s wrong.

Mark Zuckerberg getting involved, that’s wrong. So, people do have a lack of confidence. That’s just the reality of the situation.

But what I say is, OK, let’s — let’s do — let’s fix it, like we did in Florida. And then, as your nominee, what I’m going to do is, if you have ballot harvesting that is legal in Nevada, we’re going to ballot-harvest. I am not going to fight with one hand tied behind my back. 

I am going to go and I’m going to pull every lever available. And I’m not going to let the Democratic Party run circles around us. And with what happened in 2020 with the ballot harvesting and the mail ballots, which I agree are a big problem, that was funded in the CARES Act that Donald Trump himself signed into law.

They sent $400 million to the states, so that they could change election procedures and have socially distant elections. We didn’t do a socially distant election in Florida. We ran it like we normally did. But they funded the mail ballots that became so controversial. And that was a big, big mistake.

BENSON:  So, you’re, of course, vying for the Republican nomination. You have got a number of people that you’re going to be bickering and fighting with and disagreeing with and perhaps agreeing with at the debate a week from today.

You’re also hoping to run against Joe Biden in a general election. But you have also agreed to this almost side debate with the governor of California, Gavin Newsom. And I know that you guys are trying to work out the details on that with Hannity. I think it’d be fascinating.

As you said the other night on his show, the debate is over, right? Just look at the scoreboard. The debate is over. But you’re happy to have it. I find that fascinating.

Someone pointed out — I thought this was interesting. We mentioned it on the show yesterday, Governor. I don’t know if you saw this. Newsom’s team apparently has given a few suggestions for where that debate could take place. Strangely, they’re in presidential-crucial states, a man who obviously wants to be president.

His team called up Hannity or wrote Hannity and said, why don’t we go to Georgia or North Carolina? And someone noted, both of those states are on the banned travel list in California for official travel. You’re not allowed to travel those states because of the culture war stuff.


BENSON:  Isn’t that interesting that Gavin Newsom once again wants to break his own silly politicized rules when it serves his interests?

DESANTIS:  I know. And he had done the trip to Montana a couple summers ago, where he’s staying at a ranch out there.


DESANTIS:  And he — they were on the DNT list too.

So, look, he’s also — they’re also complaining about kind of our suggested rules, having an audience, being able to do a 90-second video. So we will see. They haven’t actually agreed to do it. It hasn’t gotten nailed down yet. I’m hoping he’s willing to do it, because I’m willing to do it.

And part of the reason we’re willing to do it is because Biden may not end up being the candidate. I mean, I don’t have any inside information. But it could be somebody like a Kamala. It could be a Newsom. It could be some of these people who are even more left of center than Biden is.

And so the future direction of the Democratic Party is really what they’re doing in California. So, if you want to know what road America should take, we have a model in Florida. And we’re not the only state that’s done well. There have been other states that have done well too, including Iowa and Texas

But this is an important debate, because any state or municipality that has adopted a left-wing agenda has failed, whether it’s San Francisco, whether it’s Illinois, whether it’s Baltimore. All these places have ruined the quality of life for their residents. 

And you know how I know? Because people flee to my state of Florida. They tell me about what’s going on. And if that is the future of America, there’s no way we’re going to reverse the decline of our country. So let’s have that debate. But it’s less about we’re better than California, because, as you said, that that debate is over. We know people voted with their feet.

But it’s like, OK, what’s the vision for the country going forward? And we have got a compelling vision, based on what we have done in Florida. California does not. I mean, California probably has more natural advantages than any state in the country. It’s a beautiful state in terms of its topography.

I was in the Navy stationed at Coronado Amphib Base when I was assigned to Naval Special Warfare back in the day. And just unbelievable, what they have, and they have had great industry over the years, all that, and yet Newsom has become governor, and for the first time in the state’s history, they have lost population.

Nobody thought that that was possible. You used to go to California for opportunities.

BENSON:  Right.

DESANTIS:  Now people are leaving because of the bad governance.

So, let’s have the debate.

BENSON:  Yes, I hope it happens. I think it’d be worthwhile to watch, good for the country to watch.

He wants to come to Georgia, North Carolina. He’s got his little asterisk for his do-not-travel list.

You could say, hey, you know what? How about your home turf? If you can find a venue that’s secure enough in San Francisco, let’s do it in San Francisco. I think that could be an object lesson as well, but first things first, the debate one week from tonight on FOX News Channel.

Governor Ron DeSantis will be near center stage, certainly, and a lot of pressure on everyone and a lot of attacks probably coming your way. We will be watching very closely.

And we hope to catch up with you soon, Governor. Thank you.

DESANTIS:  All right, thanks so much, Guy. Take care.  

BENSON:  You bet.