Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has filed the necessary paperwork to launch his presidential campaign for the 2024 election, setting the stage for a potentially bitter showdown with former President Donald Trump. This move signals the start of 18 months of intense rivalry as the two Republicans vying for the party’s nomination.
Despite being considered a rising star within the Republican Party, DeSantis has faced relentless attacks from Trump, which have taken a toll on his political standing. Trump, despite being embroiled in criminal investigations, has surged ahead in popularity, leaving DeSantis caught off guard.
The 44-year-old governor submitted his candidacy documents to the Federal Election Commission just hours before his scheduled announcement, which was a livestreamed conversation with billionaire Elon Musk on Twitter’s audio platform. The launch was accompanied by a video from the pro-DeSantis organization, Never Back Down, featuring his victory speech from the November 2022 election, where he proclaimed that “Florida is where woke goes to die.”
The announcement came ahead of a three-day retreat in Miami, where DeSantis’s top donors gathered to receive campaign briefings. Following the retreat, the governor plans to visit several early-voting states to further bolster his campaign.
DeSantis, seen as the most viable challenger to Trump, enjoys a level of recognition within the Republican field but lacks the national profile that the former president commands. The launch format provides him with a unique advantage by granting him access to Elon Musk’s massive following, many of whom belong to Trump’s base. If he secures the nomination, DeSantis hopes to capture the attention of younger and less conservative voters, which could be crucial for his White House aspirations.
During his tenure as Florida’s governor, DeSantis has focused on reinforcing his conservative credentials. He has signed numerous state laws, including measures targeting “woke indoctrination” in schools and public institutions, restrictions on discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation, cuts to funding for diversity promotion in universities, and stringent abortion laws.
However, DeSantis faces an uphill battle as his approval ratings decline due to policy missteps. Closing the substantial polling gap between him and Trump, who holds a significant lead despite legal troubles, will be a daunting task.
Behind the scenes, both the Trump and DeSantis camps are vying for political endorsements from state lawmakers, while Florida’s congressional delegation has largely sided with Trump. Elon Musk, a well-known admirer of DeSantis, hosted the campaign launch event but clarified that Twitter’s neutrality on the nomination should not be misconstrued as an endorsement.
In response to DeSantis’s announcement, Trump exhibited relative restraint, simply sharing favourable polling on his own social media platform, Truth Social. A Trump aide remarked that announcing on Twitter suited DeSantis, allowing him to avoid direct interaction and questions from the media.