Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Wednesday declared his presidential bid on Twitter — though the launch did not go off without a hitch.
Hours after he filed paperwork declaring his candidacy, DeSantis made his intentions clear by launching an official campaign video on Twitter ahead of a live chat with the social media platform’s owner Elon Musk.
“We need the courage to lead and the strength to win,” DeSantis said in his launch video. “I’m Ron DeSantis and I’m running for president to lead our great American comeback.”
The filing — and DeSantis’s video announcement — confirmed months, if not years, of speculation that the Florida governor is eyeing the White House. It also amounted to one of the most significant developments in the 2024 Republican presidential contest since November, when former President Donald Trump announced that he would once again seek the party’s nomination.
But the Florida governor’s Twitter launch was rife with technical problems, with hundreds of thousands of users tuned in as Musk and the discussion’s moderator, tech entrepreneur David Sacks, sought to correct the problems.
At one point, the live stream was abruptly cut off while music played. One Republican strategist listening in on the stream predicted, “this elevator music will be in the next Trump ad.”
“Fair or not, the Trump team is going to have a field day with the technical snafus,” the strategist said in a text message. “While this Twitter event might have been a first in social media & in American political history, it wasn’t the best opening for the DeSantis team.”
DeSantis’s formal entrance into the race sets off a new, more volatile phase of the primary season, putting the Florida governor in direct contention with Trump, who has attacked DeSantis relentlessly for months in hopes of stalling any perceived momentum.
Early polling in the nascent GOP presidential primary has shown DeSantis as the clearest threat to Trump’s hopes of reclaiming the White House, though he’s still running well behind the former president in most surveys.
At the same time, his support has stagnated somewhat in recent weeks following a series of political setbacks and questions from some top Republicans about whether he has what it takes to compete on a national stage.
Within minutes of DeSantis’s campaign announcement, Trump’s campaign unveiled a new ad taking aim at DeSantis as part of the so-called “Washington establishment” and implying that he’s little more than a Trump impersonator.
Likewise, Make America Great Again Inc., the main super PAC backing Trump’s 2024 bid, mocked the technical blunders during DeSantis’s Twitter rollout.
“Ron DeSantis’ botched campaign announcement is another example of why he is just not ready for the job,” Karoline Leavitt, a spokesperson for the Trump super PAC, said. “The stakes are too high, and the fight to save America is too critical to gamble on a first-timer who is clearly not ready for prime time.”
Still, after three lackluster federal election cycles in a row for Republicans, DeSantis has captured the attention of many in the party who are ready to move on from Trump and his penchant for political drama.
DeSantis is no less conservative or conflict-driven than Trump. His campaign announcement came on the heels of a whirlwind state legislative session that saw Florida lawmakers approve a laundry list of DeSantis’s most polarizing policy priorities, including a six-week abortion ban and a measure to allow Floridians to carry firearms without a permit.
DeSantis’s political rise has been rapid. When he first sought the governor’s mansion in 2018, he was a relatively unknown congressman few expected to capture the GOP’s gubernatorial nomination. It was Trump’s endorsement that put him over the top and propelled him to a 20-point victory over his primary opponent, former state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
DeSantis ultimately won the general election that year by less than half a percentage point.
Over the next four years, DeSantis transformed himself into a champion of the right, waging political wars against everything from COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions to so-called “wokeness” — a broad term that the governor regularly uses to describe perceived liberal or progressive social attitudes.
While that has made him a bogeyman among Democrats, it has endeared him to conservatives and helped reshape Florida’s political landscape.
The one-time swing state has now taken on a shade of red. DeSantis won a 19-point victory in his 2022 reelection bid, flipping Democratic strongholds including Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in the process. Republicans now hold supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature, and for the first time since Reconstruction there’s not a single Democrat in statewide elected office.
DeSantis is also heading into his 2024 bid with a well-oiled political operation behind him. Never Back Down, the main super PAC supporting his campaign, is already flush with cash and has been busy assembling a vast organizing operation throughout the first 18 states on the Republican presidential primary calendar.
DeSantis’s old state political committee is also poised to transfer tens of millions of dollars to supportive federal political action committees.
But for all of DeSantis’s political strengths, there are still some clear challenges. Despite his rising star status among Republicans, much of the GOP’s conservative voter base remains deeply loyal to Trump. At the same time, the former president has racked up a long list of endorsements from elected officials — a list that includes at least half of Florida’s Republican congressional delegation.
Trump isn’t DeSantis’s only competition for the GOP nomination. Several other candidates have already entered the race, including former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who announced his 2024 campaign just two days ago.
Even if he’s able to break Trump’s hold on the Republican Party in 2024, the general election could also prove challenging for DeSantis, with even some Republicans questioning his hard-line stance on issues such as abortion — an issue that Democrats have used to rally their base with great success since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
Updated at 7:58 p.m. ET