Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has formally entered the 2024 presidential race after building expectations for nearly a year among Republicans eager to move beyond coup-attempting former President Donald Trump.
“I’m Ron DeSantis, and I’m running for president to lead our great American comeback,” DeSantis said in a video officially launching his campaign.
“Decline is a choice, success is attainable and freedom is worth fighting for.”
DeSantis filed a declaration of his candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday afternoon. The Florida governor discussed his campaign live on Twitter on Wednesday with the site’s former CEO, Elon Musk, in a first for a presidential candidate.
DeSantis, though, was forced to begin the Twitter Spaces session about half an hour behind schedule because the number of people logged in to hear the event — almost 700,000 at its peak — crashed Twitter’s servers, according to Musk.
The governor was eventually able to make his pitch to an audience of several hundred thousand, where blasted the left’s “woke mind virus” and promised he would be taking the oath of office outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2025.
“We know our country is going in the wrong direction. We see it with our eyes, and we feel it in our bones,” he said. “Our president, while he lacks vigor, flounders in the face of our nation’s challenges and picks his cues from the woke mob.”
DeSantis, who in November won a second term in a landslide election win, trails Trump in polls of GOP primary voters but will likely be able to match his one-time ally financially, thanks to more than $80 million he has in a state political committee that can be transferred to a federal super PAC that is supporting him.
The endpoint for that money is likely the Never Back Down committee, which said it has already raised $30 million on its own. The group has recruited volunteers in multiple states to persuade voters to cast their primary ballots for DeSantis. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Never Back Down is prepared to spend more than $100 million on voter outreach, with a plan to hire 2,600 field organizers by Labor Day.
It remains to be seen whether that money, as well as the many millions DeSantis is expected to announce in his first fundraising report as a candidate at the end of June, will matter in his bid to overtake Trump.
DeSantis, 44, was leading in some polls shortly after his 19 percentage point reelection victory was a bright spot for his party as Republicans nationally underperformed expectations. He had already spent months campaigning with Republican candidates around the country and then began a months-long tour to promote his book, with multiple stops in states with early contests in the 2024 GOP calendar.
But DeSantis’ post-election polling surge has so far been a high-water mark for him as voters’ interest seemed to wane as they learned more about him and as Trump began attacking him regularly in speeches and social media posts.
Over the years, the governor has earned a reputation in the state capital as a prickly personality who has difficulty connecting with average voters. He has also run an insular governor’s office that has dominated the all-GOP state government through intimidation rather than persuasion, according to numerous Republicans in Tallahassee.
Further, DeSantis, at least thus far, seems to have based his approach to a presidential bid on pulling away some of Trump’s most loyal supporters rather than trying to consolidate the 60% to 70% of GOP primary voters who are open to abandoning someone widely seen as likely to lose a general election.
DeSantis, married to former television news anchor Casey DeSantis, is a graduate of Yale University, where he was baseball team captain, and later got his law degree from Harvard. He joined the Navy as an officer in the judge-advocate general corps and was deployed in Iraq in 2007.
DeSantis was a member of Congress from the Jacksonville area for three terms before he ran for governor in 2018. He was far behind in the polls against then-state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam before he asked for and received an endorsement from Trump, who was then president.
DeSantis easily won the nomination but barely defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum in the November general election.
Despite the Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt and multiple criminal investigations, Trump remains the GOP front-runner for the 2024 nomination and has attacked DeSantis as disloyal for running against him.