Republican candidate for Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis with his wife Casey DeSantis speaks to supporters during an election watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida on November 8, 2022.
Giorgio Viera | AFP | Getty Images
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the launch of his 2024 presidential campaign on Wednesday, putting the Republican nominee on a collision course with former President Donald Trump in the race for the GOP nomination.
DeSantis was supposed to personally announce his race during a Twitter Spaces chat with Elon Musk on Wednesday night, but the site suffered multiple issues. Investor David Sacks, who was on the call with DeSantis and Musk, blamed server issues resulting from the roughly 500,000 users who signed up to listen. Musk then launched a new Twitter space for the announcement.
Meanwhile, DeSantis, who officially filed documents launch its campaign on Wednesday, also signed an invoice this makes it easier to run for president, changing the so-called law of resignation to run in Florida. His campaign also released a video to advertise the race.
The long-awaited announcement marks the culmination of years of buzz surrounding DeSantis, 44, whose resistance to Covid-era lockdown rules and willingness to engage in polarizing cultural fights quickly made him a Republican darling.
It also makes official DeSantis’ simmering rivalry with Trump, burying their once close relationship as some GOP members seek to replace the former president as their party’s standard bearer.
Trump has already hit the governor with relentless attacks for months. Trump and his allies have attacked DeSantis’ record, his political abilities and even his personality, while amplifying negative news about the governor. A pro-Trump PAC even cut an ad depicting an anecdote about DeSantis eating pudding with his fingersthat the governor has denied.
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Trump’s aggressiveness may have paid off. Polls from the potential primary field showed DeSantis, once Trump’s close competitor, consistently lose ground for months, even as the governor toured major battlegrounds and won political victories with his state’s GOP-held legislature.
A University of Quinnipiac survey released earlier Wednesday highlighted the governor’s slide: Republican and pro-GOP voters picked Trump over DeSantis by more than two to one, 56% to 25%, in a hypothetical primary field showdown. This result showed Trump extending his gains and DeSantis losing ground by a previous Survey of Quinnipiac at the end of March.
This move was hardly a surprise: DeSantis was even considered a 2024 presidential candidate. Before the end of the 2020 election cycle. Although he has been mostly tight-lipped about his presidential ambitions, the governor has in recent months released a policy brief, hosted events for donors and conservative groups, launched a speaking tour in multiple states and released campaign style videos touting his accomplishments in Florida.
In the meantime, his allies worked hard to mount a well-funded political operation that acted as a de facto campaign for the governor’s impending presidential bid.
The Never Back Down super PAC, founded by former Trump administration official Ken Cuccinelli, has already raised tens of millions of dollars encouraging DeSantis to run for president. A person familiar with the group’s operations confirmed to CNBC that it expects to work with an overall operating budget of at least $200 million.
That figure, first reported by The New York Times, could include more than $80 million that DeSantis allies are expected to try to squeeze out of the governor’s former state-level policy committee — a controversial transfer that has campaign finance experts divided.
A lawyer trained at Yale and Harvard, DeSantis was elected to the United States House in 2012 and became a founding member of the conservative Freedom Caucus party before stepping down to run for governor of Florida in 2018.
Trump endorsed DeSantis in this gubernatorial primary, giving DeSantis a boost in the polls and leading him to cut an ad featuring his family embracing an array of Trump political slogans and slogans. DeSantis’ closeness to Trump went beyond his rhetoric, with critics noting that the governor’s body language and hand gestures seemed mirror Trump is sometimes.
DeSantis easily won the primary and narrowly beat Democrat Andrew Gillum in the general election.
As governor, DeSantis’ populist rhetoric and focus on divisive social issues quickly earned him a national reputation.
During the coronavirus pandemic, DeSantis pushed faster than other states to lift public health-related lockdowns, arguing the shutdowns had hurt Florida’s economy. These moves and others have coincided with an influx of new residents into the state, but have drawn ire from health experts and locals. civil servantsespecially when Covid cases later leaps.
DeSantis also courted controversy when he joined GOP efforts to protest President Joe Biden’s border policies by flying migrant planes to the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.
Meanwhile, his support for a controversial bill limiting discussion of sex and gender in public schools, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, has turned into an ongoing fight with disney which lasted well over a year.
Disney, one of Florida’s largest employers, publicly opposed the bill, joining critics who argued its vague language could lead to the targeting and marginalization of LGBTQ teachers and children. DeSantis and his allies responded to Disney criticism by targeting the longstanding special tax district of Walt Disney World and vowing to end the “corporate kingdom.” Disney has since sued DeSantis and others in federal court, accusing the governor of orchestrating a campaign of political retaliation against the company.
DeSantis also received a major pre-presidential boost from Republican supermajorities in the Florida Legislature, which rushed to embrace the governor’s broad agenda and cleared the way for him to launch a White House bid.
DeSantis has spent the past few weeks signing heaps of new legislation, polishing his carefully crafted image as a conservative fighter who gets things done. He signed laws mandating yet another brutal abortion restrictions, relaxation rules on carrying concealed weapons, expanding his state’s school voucher system, restricting ESG investing, and prohibiting public colleges from spending funds on diversity programs, among others.
Powerful anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America praised DeSantis in a statement Wednesday afternoon, though stopping short of fully endorsing her candidacy.
The governor has taken Florida “from a late-lived abortion haven to one of the best states in the nation for unborn children and mothers,” the group’s president said. “We look forward to DeSantis and all of the candidates further outlining their pro-life vision and platform as the primary unfolds.”
In a state with a growing population but a plummeting Democratic registration, DeSantis’ resistance to Covid safety rules and his perceived political foes on the left have been mightily rewarded. He beat his Democratic opponent, former Rep. Charlie Crist, in Florida’s 2022 gubernatorial election, winning by more than 20 percentage points.
This time he did it with virtually no help from Trump.
With DeSantis’ profile on the rise, Trump’s opinion of the governor has soured. Shortly after the November midterms, Trump cry to “Ron DeSanctimonious”, one of many goofy nicknames for DeSantis, along with “Ron DeSanctus” and, would have“Ron with meatballs.”
Trump has been damaged by his loss to Biden, the fallout from the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, and the underperformance of many of his hand-picked midterm candidates. Yet despite those bruises — and his mounting legal woes, including his indictment in a Manhattan secret money case and his liability for sexual abuse and defamation in another case — Trump is currently the Republican Party’s top pick for 2024.