Florida Governor Ron DeSantis launches 2024 presidential campaign to challenge Trump

MIAMI: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis entered the 2024 presidential race on Wednesday, entering a crowded Republican primary contest that will test both his national appeal as a cultural conservative firebrand and the GOP’s willingness to shift from the former President Donald Trump.
The 44-year-old Republican revealed his decision in a Federal Election Commission filing before an online conversation with Twitter CEO Elon Musk.
It marks a new chapter in his remarkable rise from little-known Congressman to two-term governor as a leading figure in the nation’s bitter struggles over race, gender, abortion and other divisive issues. DeSantis is considered Trump’s strongest Republican rival even as the governor faces questions about his readiness for the national stage.
DeSantis’ audio-only announcement was scheduled to stream on Twitter Spaces starting at 6 PM EDT. He was following prime time appearances on conservative shows, including Fox News and Mark Levin’s radio show.
DeSantis’ entry into the Republican camp has been rumored for months and he is considered one of the party’s strongest candidates in the quest to win back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden. The 80-year-old incumbent, Republicans say, has pushed the nation too far to the left and failed to address inflation, immigration and crime.
The Republican candidate will face Biden in the general election runoff in November 2024.
DeSantis begins his campaign in up to two alongside Trump based on early public polling, fundraising, and campaign infrastructure.
The two GOP powers have a lot in common.
DeSantis, who likely wouldn’t have become governor of Florida without Trump’s endorsement, has adopted the former president’s fiery personality, populist policies, and even some of his rhetoric and mannerisms.
Yet DeSantis has one thing Trump doesn’t: a credible claim that he may be more eligible in a general election than Trump, who faces multiple legal threats and has presided over Republican losses in three consecutive national elections.
DeSantis just six months ago won his reelection in Florida by a stunning 19 percentage points, even as Republicans in many other states struggled. He also scored several major political victories during the spring session of the Republican-controlled legislature.
Aware of DeSantis’ attraction, Trump has almost singly focused for months on undermining DeSantis’ political appeal. Trump and his team believe DeSantis may be Trump’s only legitimate threat to the nomination.
Trump’s kitchen sink attacks and nicknames won’t be DeSantis’ only obstacle.
DeSantis may be a political heavyweight in Florida and a regular on Fox News, but allies acknowledge that most primary voters in other states aren’t familiar with him.
A Florida native with Midwestern family roots, DeSantis was educated at Yale University, where he played baseball. He would go to Harvard Law School and become an officer of the Navy Judge Advocate General, a position that took him to Iraq and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
He ran for Congress in 2012 and won an Orlando-area district, becoming a founding member of the far-right Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill.
Despite his lengthy resume, friends and foes alike note that DeSantis struggles to display the campaign-ready charisma and quick-thinking that often defines successful candidates nationally. He went to great lengths to avoid unscripted public appearances and media scrutiny while governor, which is difficult, if not impossible, as a presidential candidate.
Would-be supporters also fear that DeSantis has refused to invest in relationships with party leaders or other elected officials, casting questions about his ability to build the coalition he will need to beat Trump. Conversely, the more sympathetic Trump has already garnered an army of endorsements in key states, including Florida.
Beyond the primaries, DeSantis’s biggest long-term challenge may lie in the far-right policies he’s adopted as governor as an unrepentant leader in what he calls his war on the “Awakening.”
Florida’s governor has sent dozens of immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts to draw attention to the influx of Latino immigrants trying to cross the US-Mexico border. He signed and then expanded the parental rights in education bill, known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans instruction or classroom discussion about LGBTQ issues in Florida public schools for all grades.
Most recently, she signed a law banning abortions at six weeks, which is before most women realize they are pregnant. And he single-handedly removed an elected prosecutor who vowed not to charge people subject to Florida’s new abortion restrictions or doctors who provide gender-affirming care.
DeSantis also signed a law this year that allows Florida residents to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. He has pushed for new measures that experts warn would undermine press freedom. He also took over a liberal arts college which he believed was indoctrinating students with leftist ideology.
The governor’s most high-profile political fight, however, came against beloved Florida-based entertainment giant Disney, which has publicly opposed his “Don’t Say Gay” law. In retaliation, DeSantis seized control of Disney World’s governing body and installed loyalists who threaten to take control of park planning, among other extraordinary measures.
DeSantis himself has threatened to build a state prison on the park property.
The dispute has drawn condemnation from business leaders and his Republican rivals, who have said the moves run counter to small-government conservatism.
DeSantis delayed his announcement until the end of the Florida legislative session. But for much of the year he’s been courting primary voters in key states and using an allied super-political action committee to build a major political organization that’s essentially a campaign-in-waiting and already claims at least $30 million in the bank.
He joins a field that already includes: Trump; former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley; South Carolina Senator Tim Scott; former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson; and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswami. Former Vice President Mike Pence is also considered a likely presidential candidate, but has not yet announced a bid.
More than any of his opponents, except perhaps Trump, DeSantis is in a position to hit the ground running thanks to months of super PAC efforts to set up campaign infrastructure in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which will host the top four contests on the GOP’s primary calendar early next year.
The super PAC also established more than 30 Student chapters for DeSantis in at least 18 states.


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