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Ron DeSantis officially running for president

Republican candidate for Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis with his wife Casey DeSantis speaks to supporters during an election watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida on November 8, 2022.

Giorgio Viera | AFP | Getty Images

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis formally filed paperwork Wednesday to kick off his 2024 presidential campaign, putting the Republican nominee on a collision course with former President Donald Trump in the GOP nomination race.

DeSantis is set to personally announce his race during a Twitter Spaces chat with Elon Musk at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Meanwhile, DeSantis also signed a bill that makes running for president easier, changing the so-called law of resignation to run in Florida.

The long-awaited move marks the culmination of years of buzz surrounding DeSantis, 44, whose resistance to Covid-era lockdown rules and willingness to engage in polarizing cultural fights quickly made him a Republican darling.

It also makes official DeSantis’ simmering rivalry with Trump, burying their once close relationship as some GOP members seek to replace the former president as their party’s standard bearer.

Trump has already hit the governor with relentless attacks for months. Trump and his allies have attacked DeSantis’ record, his political abilities and even his personality, while amplifying negative news about the governor. A pro-Trump PAC even cut out an ad depicting an anecdote about DeSantis eating pudding with his fingers, which the governor denied.

Learn more: DeSantis brings history of business battles to presidential campaign

Trump’s aggressiveness may have paid off. Prospective primary field polls showed DeSantis, once Trump’s close competitor, steadily losing ground for months, even as the governor scoured major battlegrounds and racked up political victories with the GOP-held legislature of its state.

A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier Wednesday highlighted the governor’s slide: Republican and pro-GOP voters picked Trump over DeSantis by more than two to one, 56% to 25%, in a primary field showdown. hypothetical. The result showed Trump extending his gains and DeSantis losing ground to a previous Quinnipiac survey in late March.

A long-awaited campaign

This move was hardly a surprise: DeSantis was even considered a 2024 presidential candidate. before the end of the 2020 election cycle. Although he has been mostly tight-lipped about his presidential ambitions, the governor has in recent months released a policy brief, hosted events for donors and conservative groups, launched a tour of conferences in several states and released campaign-style videos touting his accomplishments in Florida.

In the meantime, his allies worked hard to mount a well-funded political operation that acted as a de facto campaign for the governor’s impending presidential bid.

The Never Back Down super PAC, founded by former Trump administration official Ken Cuccinelli, has already raised tens of millions of dollars encouraging DeSantis to run for president. A person familiar with the group’s operations confirmed to CNBC that it expects to work with an overall operating budget of at least $200 million.

That figure, first reported by The New York Times, could include more than $80 million that DeSantis allies are expected to try to squeeze out of the governor’s former state-level policy committee — a controversial transfer that has campaign finance experts divided.

A lawyer trained at Yale and Harvard, DeSantis was elected to the United States House in 2012 and became a founding member of the conservative Freedom Caucus party before stepping down to run for governor of Florida in 2018.

Trump endorsed DeSantis in this gubernatorial primary, giving DeSantis a boost in the polls and leading him to cut an ad featuring his family embracing an array of Trump political slogans and slogans. DeSantis’ closeness to Trump went beyond his rhetoric, with critics noting that the governor’s body language and hand gestures seemed mirror Trump is sometimes.

DeSantis easily won the primary and narrowly beat Democrat Andrew Gillum in the general election.

Austere divisions

As governor, DeSantis’ populist rhetoric and focus on divisive social issues quickly earned him a national reputation.

During the coronavirus pandemic, DeSantis pushed faster than other states to lift public health-related lockdowns, arguing the shutdowns had hurt Florida’s economy. These moves and others have coincided with an influx of new residents into the state, but have drawn ire from health experts and locals. officials, especially when Covid cases subsequently spiked.

DeSantis also courted controversy when he joined GOP efforts to protest President Joe Biden’s border policies by flying migrant planes to the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Meanwhile, his support for a controversial bill limiting discussion of sex and gender in public schools, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, has turned into an ongoing fight with disney which lasted well over a year.

Disney, one of Florida’s largest employers, publicly opposed the bill, joining critics who argued its vague language could lead to the targeting and marginalization of LGBTQ teachers and children. DeSantis and his allies responded to Disney criticism by targeting the longstanding special tax district of Walt Disney World and vowing to end the “corporate kingdom.” Disney has since sued DeSantis and others in federal court, accusing the governor of orchestrating a campaign of political retaliation against the company.

DeSantis also received a major pre-presidential boost from Republican supermajorities in the Florida Legislature, which rushed to embrace the governor’s broad agenda and cleared the way for him to launch a White House bid.

DeSantis has spent the past few weeks signing heaps of new legislation, polishing his carefully crafted image as a conservative fighter who gets things done. He signed laws imposing tough new restrictions on abortion, easing rules on carrying concealed weapons, expanding his state’s school voucher system, restricting ESG investing and banning public colleges from spending funds on diversity programs, among others.

Powerful anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America praised DeSantis in a statement Wednesday afternoon, though stopping short of fully endorsing her candidacy.

The governor has taken Florida “from a late-lived abortion haven to one of the best states in the nation for unborn children and mothers,” the group’s president said. “We look forward to DeSantis and all of the candidates further outlining their pro-life vision and platform as the primary unfolds.”

In a state with a growing population but a plummeting Democratic registration, DeSantis’ resistance to Covid safety rules and his perceived political foes on the left have been mightily rewarded. He beat his Democratic opponent, former Rep. Charlie Crist, in Florida’s 2022 gubernatorial election, winning by more than 20 percentage points.

This time he did it with virtually no help from Trump.

With DeSantis’ profile on the rise, Trump’s opinion of the governor has soured. Shortly after November’s midterm, Trump lamented “Ron DeSanctimonious,” one of DeSantis’ many goofy nicknames, along with “Ron DeSanctus” and, reportedly, “Meatball Ron.”

Trump has been damaged by his loss to Biden, the fallout from the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, and the underperformance of many of his hand-picked midterm candidates. Yet despite those bruises — and his mounting legal woes, including his indictment in a Manhattan secret money case and his liability for sexual abuse and defamation in another case — Trump is currently the Republican Party’s top pick for 2024.


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