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DeSantis launches presidential campaign to challenge Trump


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis kicked off his 2024 presidential campaign on Wednesday with strong words, but a disastrous Twitter ad that did little to counter criticism that the 44-year-old Republican may not be prepared to take on former President Donald Trump.

As he tried to project confidence, DeSantis’ unusual decision to announce his campaign during an online chat with Twitter CEO Elon Musk ultimately backfired. The audio stream repeatedly crashed, making it nearly impossible for most users to hear the new presidential candidate in real time.

“American decline is not inevitable, it’s a choice. And we should choose a new direction — a path that will lead to American revitalization,” DeSantis said on the glitch stream, running through his conservative accomplishments. “I am running for President of the United States to lead our great American comeback.”

While his bipartisan critics rejoiced at the rocky start, DeSantis’ announcement marks a new chapter in his extraordinary rise from little-known congressman to two-term governor to a figurehead in the country’s bitter struggles over the race, gender, abortion and other divisive issues.

DeSantis’ path to the Republican presidential nomination will not be easy.

He enters the race watching Trump in early polls while facing serious questions about his far-right policies, campaign persona and lack of connections in the Republican ecosystem. He has generated considerable interest among GOP primary voters by running as a younger, more eligible version of the 76-year-old former president.

He didn’t mention Trump once in his chat with Musk that ultimately lasted over an hour. But he said he was ready to fight.

“Buckle up when I walk into this because the status quo is not acceptable,” DeSantis said.

The ultimate Republican nominee is set to face Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 2024 general election ballot.

DeSantis joins a field that also includes former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, 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 a candidacy.

By choosing Twitter on Wednesday night, DeSantis tried to pull a page out of the playbook that helped turn Trump from businessman and TV stardom to political stardom.

It didn’t go as planned.

The online event began with technical issues which Musk said were due to “strained” servers because so many people were trying to listen to the audio-only event. More than 20 minutes passed beyond the scheduled start time, with users being kicked, hearing microphone feedback, music on hold, and other technical issues.

“You can tell by the mistakes it’s real,” Musk said.

Republican opponents of DeSantis piled in.

Haley’s super PAC chief strategist, Mark Harris, was ruthless: “Soft launch failure? Check. Ad failure? Recheck. Looking forward to Ron DeSantis’ failed campaign.”

Trump went further: “Wow! The DeSanctus TWITTER launch is a DISASTER! His whole campaign will be a disaster. WATCH!” he wrote on his social media site. “Is the DeSantis launch FATAL? Yes !

Still, DeSantis’ campaign said it raised US$1 million online in the first hour after the announcement.

“We had a massive following,” DeSantis said in a later Fox News interview when asked about the technical difficulties. “It was the biggest they’ve ever had. It shattered the Twitter space. We’re really thrilled with the excitement.”

DeSantis, who probably wouldn’t have become governor of Florida without Trump’s endorsement, embraced the former president’s fiery personality, his populist policies and even some of his rhetoric and mannerisms.

Yet DeSantis has one thing his rival doesn’t: a credible claim that he may be more eligible than Trump, who faces multiple legal threats, including criminal charges in New York, and who has presided over the Republican losses in three consecutive national elections.

DeSantis just six months ago won re-election in Florida by a stunning 19 percentage points — even as Republicans in many other states struggled. He also won several major political victories in the Republican-controlled spring session of the Legislature.

“We have to win again,” DeSantis said on Fox. “As Republicans, we need to get rid of this culture of loss.”

Aware of DeSantis’ draw, Trump has focused almost singularly on undermining his political appeal for months. Trump and his team believe DeSantis may be Trump’s only legitimate threat to the nomination.

Hours before the announcement, Trump argued in a social media post that “Ron DeSanctus” can’t win the general election or the GOP primary because of his previous votes in Congress on Social Security and the Health Insurance.

“He is in desperate need of a personality transplant and to my knowledge they are not medically available yet,” Trump added. “A disloyal person!”

Kitchen sink attacks and nicknames won’t be DeSantis’ only obstacle.

He’s a political heavyweight in Florida and a regular on Fox News, but his allies acknowledge that most primary voters in other states don’t know him well.

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

The Florida governor spent most of Wednesday behind closed doors.

In an example of his level of media avoidance, his official Twitter account for the governor posted a photo shortly after the FEC filed – a signed bill surrounded by dozens of bikers for legislation to reduce crashes motorcycle in Florida. The media were not notified of the event in advance.

Late Wednesday, DeSantis’ office announced that he had signed a sweeping election bill that contains a provision allowing him to run for president without resigning as governor, exempting himself from a state rule. known as “resigning to run”.

Would-be supporters also worry that DeSantis has refused to invest in relationships with party leaders or other elected officials, raising questions about his ability to build the coalition he would ultimately need to defeat Trump. By contrast, Trump has clawed back an army of supporters in key states, including Florida.

Beyond the primary, DeSantis’ biggest long-term challenge may lie in the far-right policies he embraced as governor as an unabashed leader in what he calls his “war on awakening”.

The governor of Florida 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 to critics as the Don’t Say Gay Act, which prohibits classroom teaching or discussion of LGBTQ2S+ issues in schools. Florida public schools for all levels.

More recently, he signed a law banning abortions at six weeks, which is before most women realize they are pregnant. And he removed an elected prosecutor who has sworn not to indict 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 license. He pushed for new measures that critics say would weaken press freedom. He also took over a liberal arts college which he said indoctrinated students with left-wing ideology.

The governor’s most publicized political fight was against Florida entertainment giant Disney, which publicly opposed its “Don’t Say Gay” law. In retaliation, DeSantis has taken over the governing body of Disney World and installed loyalists who threaten to take over planning for the park.

“We will never surrender to the woke mob and we will leave the woke ideology in the dustbin of history,” he said once the Twitter feed started working.


People reported from New York. Izaguirre reported in Tallahassee, Florida. AP writers JJ Cooper in Phoenix and Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco contributed.

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