Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis entered the 2024 presidential race on Wednesday, stepping into a crowded Republican primary contest that will test both his national appeal as a cultural conservative stalwart and the GOP’s willingness to move on from 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 extraordinary rise from little-known congressman to two-term governor to a leading figure in the nation’s bitter fights over race, gender, abortion, and other divisive issues. DeSantis is considered to be Trump’s strongest Republican rival even as the governor faces questions about his readiness for the national stage.
DeSantis’ audio-only announcement was to be streamed on Twitter Spaces beginning at 6 p.m. EDT. He was following up with prime-time appearances on conservative programs, including Fox News and Mark Levin’s radio show.
DeSantis’ entry into the Republican field has been rumored for months and he is considered one of the party’s strongest candidates in the quest to retake the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden. The 80-year-old incumbent, Republicans say, has pushed the nation too far left while failing to address inflation, immigration and crime.
The Republican nominee will face Biden on the general election ballot in November 2024.
DeSantis begins his campaign in a top-tier of two alongside Trump based on early public polling, fundraising and campaign infrastructure.
The two GOP powerhouses have much in common.
DeSantis, who likely would not have become the Florida governor without Trump’s endorsement, has adopted the former president’s fiery personality, his populist policies and even some of his rhetoric and mannerisms.
Yet DeSantis has one thing Trump does not: a credible claim that he may be more electable in a general election than Trump, who faces multiple legal threats and 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 policy victories during the Republican-controlled Legislature’s spring session.
Aware of DeSantis’ draw, Trump has been almost singularly focused on undermining DeSantis’ political appeal for months. Trump and his team believe that DeSantis may be Trump’s only legitimate threat for the nomination.
Trump’s kitchen-sink attacks and nicknames won’t be DeSantis’ only hurdle.
DeSantis may be a political heavyweight in Florida and a regular on Fox News, but allies acknowledge that most primary voters in other states don’t know him well.
A Florida native with family roots in the Midwest, DeSantis studied at Yale University, where he played baseball. He would go on to Harvard Law School and become a Navy Judge Advocate General officer, 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-trail charisma and quick-on-your-feet thinking that often defines successful candidates at the national level. He has gone to great lengths to avoid unscripted public appearances and media scrutiny while governor, which is difficult, if not impossible, as a presidential contender.
Would-be supporters also worry that DeSantis has refused to invest in relationships with party leaders or fellow elected officials, raising questions about his ability to build the coalition he will ultimately need to beat Trump. By contrast, the more personable Trump has already scooped up an army of endorsements in key states, including Florida.
DeSantis delayed his announcement until Florida’s legislative session was over. But for much of the year, he has been courting primary voters in key states and using an allied super political action committee to build out a large political organization that is essentially a campaign in waiting and already claims at least $30 million in the bank.
He joins a field that already includes: Trump; former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley; South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott; former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. 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 positioned to hit the ground running thanks to the super PAC’s months-long efforts to install campaign infrastructure across Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which will host the first four contests on the GOP’s primary calendar early next year.
The super PAC also established more than 30 Students for DeSantis chapters across at least 18 states.
Source: The Yeshiva World