Ron DeSantis describes campaign trips
CONCORD, NH –
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sought to push back an awkward start to his presidential campaign on Thursday, outlining an aggressive travel schedule as his allies insisted they remain well-funded and well-positioned for a long Republican primary fight ahead. .
While DeSantis supporters privately acknowledged the failed announcement was an unwelcome distraction, there was a general feeling — even among some Republican critics — that it would likely have limited, if any, long-term political consequences.
“Do they wish they could do it again? Probably,” said David Oman, who led two high-profile presidential campaigns in Iowa. “Are we going to talk about it in 10 days? Probably not.
DeSantis officially kicked off his campaign Wednesday night during an online chat with Twitter CEO Elon Musk. But the audio stream repeatedly crashed, making it difficult for most users to hear the announcement in real time.
On Thursday, the Republican governor announced plans for a three-state blitz next week with at least a dozen stoppages. He is due to campaign Tuesday and Wednesday in Iowa before a trip to New Hampshire on Thursday and South Carolina on Friday.
“We are focused on Governor DeSantis’ forward-thinking message to restore America to every potential voter in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina,” campaign manager Generra Peck said. “Our campaign is committed to spending time winning these early candidate states. No one will work harder than Governor DeSantis to share his vision with the country — he’s only just begun to fight.”
DeSantis stands as the only legitimate Republican rival in the crowded GOP primary to former President Donald Trump, who holds a big lead in early polls as well as a firm grip on a sizable portion of the GOP’s passionate base.
Still, Trump is plagued by his own baggage, which includes multiple legal threats and a fixation on his 2020 election defeat.
Meanwhile, DeSantis’ team opens the campaign with tens of millions of dollars in the bank. A spokesperson said the campaign raised $1 million in the first hour after Wednesday’s announcement, but declined to provide an updated total on Thursday. A DeSantis-allied super PAC adviser said 30 full-time paid staff are in place in the first four states of the presidential primary schedule, and many more hires are already planned for the next 14 states to hold primary contests.
No other Republican presidential candidate has such an infrastructure in place, including Trump. His aides declined to say how many employees he had in the early states. “The only numbers we’ll talk about are the massive leads President Trump is accumulating in the early states,” spokesman Steven Cheung said.
But as DeSantis tried to project confidence on Thursday, the two-term governor faced lingering questions about his difficult deployment during a conservative media tour.
“I was just kind of sitting in Tallahassee like I didn’t really know what was going on because Twitter is running all of this,” DeSantis told conservative commentator Glenn Beck. “They were just getting so many people, beyond what they had ever had, that I think it kind of melted the servers.”
As Trump’s team piled in with gleeful mockery — “a .DeSaster of epic proportions,” Donald Trump Jr. wrote on Truth Social — many Republican officials, donors, and early state activists suggested that there would be few long-term consequences.
“Look, I like Elon Musk, but apparently he fired too many IT people,” said New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, himself a 2024 Republican presidential candidate and periodic critic of DeSantis. , on ABC’s “The View.” “You can’t blame Ron DeSantis for that.”
“I mean, if Elon Musk said to me, ‘We’re going to air it,’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, this guy knows what he’s doing. It didn’t work,” Sununu added. “Ron’s job was to deliver the speech and make the points. I think he did a good job in that regard.”
Republican strategist Terry Sullivan, who led Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign in 2016, suggested DeSantis is well-positioned to overcome an early stumble.
“Big presidential campaign ads are just about getting a short-term bounce (in the polls) and raising money online,” Sullivan said. “DeSantis doesn’t need either one. He just needed to get in the race and start campaigning. Mission accomplished.”
Former New Hampshire GOP chairwoman Jennifer Horn described DeSantis’ deployment as an “embarrassing missed opportunity.” The only potential longer-term challenge, she said, was that he serves as a “gift to Donald Trump”, who will almost certainly ensure that he is not quickly forgotten.
But on the ground, in the states that matter most in the fight for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, there remained “a high level of interest” in DeSantis, according to New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Chris Ager. . He said several Republican Party groups ask DeSantis to speak at their events.
“I think it was a pretty bold move to try something totally new in an ad,” Ager said.
And while early polls show Trump with a large lead over DeSantis among New Hampshire primary voters, Ager said a lot can change over time.
“I expect the race to get tighter,” he said. “Governor DeSantis is definitely a serious and legitimate contender for the top spot.”
Republican donor and vocal Trump critic Eric Levine said there was little discussion in the donor community about DeSantis’ stumble. He said the Florida governor remains one of his top three candidates.
“Nobody leaves him because of it. Whether or not he lost a few people who might have jumped on the bandwagon if it had been better, I don’t know,” Levine said. “Now it’s a marathon from now to Iowa.”
People reported from New York. Izaguirre reported from Tallahassee, Florida. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in New York and Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.
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