It’s official. Florida Governor Ron De Santis entered the 2024 presidential race on Wednesday, setting the stage for a showdown with former President Donald Trump. DeSantis revealed his decision in a filing with the Federal Election Commission. On Wednesday afternoon he publicly announced his candidacy in a conversation with tycoon Elon Musk on Twitter, which started with some technical issues but was quickly restarted, and later in an interview with a former Republican congressman on Fox News.
DeSantis’ candidacy has been a long time coming. He emerged as a strong contender within the GOP in last November’s elections, when he was reelected governor of Florida by a landslide. His success contrasted with the disappointment of more Trump-aligned candidates across the country, who flopped in key elections. Trump, who announced his candidacy last November, was the first Republican to enter the race and has since been trying to dissuade DeSantis from running against him.
The two had a very good relationship in the past. Trump feels, with good reason, that DeSantis was elected governor of Florida in 2018 because of his support, so now he feels betrayed. As a result, the former president and his army have criticized DeSantis, calling him names and going so far as to airing negative publicity against him before he was even a candidate. Clearly, Trump sees DeSantis as his most fearsome rival. In the hours leading up to DeSantis’ announcement, Trump’s team tried to denigrate him, attacking even the format he chose to announce his candidacy, saying that he only opted for doing it on Twitter so that he did not have to interact with a live audience.
Despite the clear rivalry between the two, DeSantis successfully implemented in Florida a kind of Trumpism without Trump. He is a fierce combatant in the culture wars against progressive ideology and has enacted very conservative and controversial policies on issues such as sexual orientation, gender identity or racial discrimination. However, he has not had to deal with the backpack of scandals and legal scrutiny Trump has had to shoulder, especially in the last few months. Thus, DeSantis has the advantage of being able to offer a project for the future of the nation without all the baggage of the former president.
At the age of 44, DeSantis contrasts with Trump (76) or President Joe Biden (80) in a race in which age has become an important factor for voters. DeSantis is expected to hold fundraisers this week ahead of a rally next week in Dunedin, the west Florida town where he spent his childhood, outside Tampa.
The race for the Republican presidential nomination is getting quite crowded. The GOP hopefuls include South Carolina senator Tim Scott; former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley; Arkansas governor Asa Hutchison; billionaire biotech entrepreneur and scourge of the so-called woke ideology, Vivek Ramaswamy; fellow businessman Perry Johnson; political commentator Larry Elder; and politician and businessman Rolland Roberts, son of the West Virginia senator of the same name. Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, is also expected to launch a campaign.
According to the latest poll released just Wednesday by CNN, Trump leads the 2024 GOP field: he is the first choice of 53% Republican and Republican-leaning voters in the primary, roughly doubling DeSantis’ 26%. But the poll also reveals that wide swaths of Republican-aligned voters are willing to consider either, as well as other candidates. More than 8 in 10 either support or say they’re open to considering Trump (84%) and DeSantis (85%), and smaller majorities say they support or would consider former UN ambassador Nikki Haley (61%), Scott (60%) and former Vice President Mike Pence (54%). Haley and Pence are currently the first choice of 6%, according to the poll, with Scott at 2% along with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and five other candidates hold 1% support or less.
However, U.S. presidential primaries are filled with twists and turns. Back in 2020, Biden started behind in the Democratic Party race and ended up winning. Now he has no strong rivals for 2024. Meanwhile, Trump is facing an array of scandals and investigations that may very well drag on during the height of the primaries. A New York judge has set his criminal trial for March 25, 2024, in which the former president will face 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in a case stemming from hush-money payments made to porn actress Stormy Daniels in the 2016 campaign. Additionally, he faces other open investigations.
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