Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis entered the 2024 presidential race on Wednesday, entering a crowded Republican primary that will test both his national appeal as a cultural conservative and the GOP’s willingness to move away from former President Donald Trump.

The 44-year-old Republican revealed his decision in Federal Election Commission filings before an online conversation with Twitter CEO Elon Musk.

It marks a new chapter in his extraordinary rise from a little-known congressman to a two-term governor to a leading figure in the nation’s bitter fights over race, gender, abortion and other divisive issues. DeSantis is seen as Trump’s strongest Republican challenger, even as the governor faces questions about his readiness for the national stage.

DeSantis’ audio message was scheduled to be broadcast on Twitter Spaces beginning at 6 p.m. EDT. He continued to make prime-time appearances on conservative programs, including Fox News and Mark Levin’s radio show.

DeSantis has been rumored for months to enter the Republican field, and is considered one of the party’s strongest candidates in its bid to recapture the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden. The 80-year-old incumbent, Republicans say, has pushed the nation too far to the left by failing to tackle inflation, immigration and crime.

The Republican nominee will face Biden in the November 2024 general election.

DeSantis is launching his campaign in the top tier with Trump based on early public polling, fundraising and campaign infrastructure.

The two powerful GOP parties have a lot in common.

DeSantis, who likely would not have become 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.

Still, DeSantis has one thing Trump doesn’t: a credible case that he can be more electable in the general election than Trump, who faces multiple legal threats and has led Republican losses in three straight national elections.

Just six months ago, DeSantis won re-election in Florida by a staggering 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’ appeal, Trump has for months focused almost exclusively on undermining DeSantis’ political appeal. Trump and his team believe DeSantis may be Trump’s only legitimate threat for the nomination.

Trump’s kitchen sink attacks and his nicknames won’t be DeSantis’ only obstacle.

DeSantis may be a political heavyweight in Florida and a Fox News regular, but allies admit that most primary voters in other states don’t know him well.

A native of Florida with family roots in the Midwest, DeSantis attended Yale University where he played baseball. He would go on to Harvard Law School and become a naval court chief petty officer, a position that would take him to Iraq and the Guantanamo Bay camp.

He ran for Congress in 2012 and won in the Orlando district, becoming a founding member of the far-right Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill.

Despite his lengthy résumé, friends and foes alike note that DeSantis struggles to display the campaign charisma and quick thinking that often define successful candidates at the national level. He has gone to great lengths to avoid unauthorized public appearances and media scrutiny while serving as governor, which is difficult, if not impossible, as a presidential candidate.

Potential supporters also worry that DeSantis has refused to invest in relationships with party leaders or other elected officials, casting doubt on his ability to build the coalition he will eventually need to defeat Trump. By contrast, the more likable Trump has already amassed an army of supporters in key states, including Florida.

Beyond the primaries, DeSantis’ biggest long-term challenge may lie in the far-right policies he pursued as governor as an uncompromising leader in what he calls his war on the “woke.”

Florida’s governor has sent dozens of Texas immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts to draw attention to the influx of Latino immigrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. He signed and then expanded the Parents’ Rights in Education bill, known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans the teaching or discussion of LGBTQ issues in classrooms in Florida public schools for all grades.

Most recently, he signed a law banning abortions at the six-week mark, which is before most women realize they are pregnant. And he single-handedly ousted an elected prosecutor who promised not to prosecute people subject to Florida’s new abortion restrictions or doctors who provide gender-affirming care.

DeSantis also signed legislation this year allowing Florida residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit. He proposed new measures that experts warn will weaken press freedom. He also took control of a liberal arts college that he believed was indoctrinating students with left-wing ideology.

However, the governor’s most high-profile political fight has come against beloved Florida 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 appointed loyalists to threaten to take over park planning, among other extraordinary measures.

DeSantis himself threatened to build a state prison on the park grounds.

The controversy drew condemnation from business leaders and his Republican rivals, who said the moves ran counter to small-government conservatism.

DeSantis delayed his announcement until the end of the Florida Legislature’s session. But he spent much of the year courting primary voters in key states and using the union’s super political action committee to build a major political organization that is essentially a company-in-waiting and already has at least $30 million in the bank.

He joins a field that already includes: Trump; former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley; South Carolina Senator Tim Scott; former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson; and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Former Vice President Mike Pence is also considered a likely presidential candidate, but has yet to announce his bid.

More than any of his opponents, with the possible exception of Trump, DeSantis can reach the goal thanks to a months-long Super PAC effort to establish a campaign infrastructure in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, where the first four contests on the primary calendar will be held. Republican Party early next year.

The super PAC has also created more than 30 DeSantis student chapters in at least 18 states.


Peoples reported from New York. Izaguirre reported in Tallahassee, Florida.


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