After a monthslong shadow campaign, Ron DeSantis finally made it official Wednesday: He’s running. The Florida governor, whose bigoted culture wars have made him a hero to the far-right, formally entered the race for the 2024 Republican nomination in a Twitter Spaces announcement, casting himself as a more electable version of Donald Trump — whose movement DeSantis hopes to inherit.
“We must end the culture of losing that has infected the Republican Party in recent years,” DeSantis said on Twitter Wednesday, in a chat with Elon Musk and their mutual ally, David Sacks, a venture capitalist. “The tired dogmas of the past are inadequate for a vibrant future.”
The Twitter Space with Musk and Sacks, which was initially mired in nearly 30 minutes of technical difficulties, was accompanied earlier in the day by a one minute video in which DeSantis touted his Florida policies. The announcement — which adds to a field that already includes Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Asa Hutchinson, Larry Elder, Tim Scott, and of course, Trump — seemed a harbinger of the campaign to come: a bid fueled by the very-online right, launched on the platform Musk has helped make a home for that very extremism. During the live stream, DeSantis repeatedly called for fighting against a “woke mind virus,” and entertained questions from sympathetic figures like Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, who has endorsed DeSantis for president, and Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford University economist and health policy expert who criticized the COVID-19 lockdowns and who has became part of DeSantis’s Covid-19 response brain trust.
DeSantis, who had long been expected to launch a White House run, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in GOP politics in recent years, thanks to his battle against this so-called “wokeness” in his home state — which is to say, a cruel crusade against Black Floridians, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, and abortion rights. “Florida is where woke goes to die,” he said after winning his second term as governor last year, in a victory speech that was also something of a soft launch of his presidential campaign.
But his rising star has dimmed somewhat more recently as he’s weighed his bid; He’s faced incessant attacks from Trump, who regards his run as a personal betrayal; the former president, meanwhile, has reasserted his place at the top of the Republican Party; and DeSantis’s ambitions have shone a spotlight on his personal idiosyncrasies, lack of personality, and overall unlikability. A few months ago, he seemed like the GOP’s next big demagogue. As he formally opens his campaign, though, he’s already drawn some unflattering “Jeb!” comparisons: His feud with Disney has irked even some in his own party; he’s lost Republican endorsements to Trump, including from nearly half of Florida’s congressional delegation; and some donors have gotten cold feet, as he takes his culture wars to new extremes on abortion and book bans. “I think he’s in trouble,” as former Republican Senatorial Committee finance chair Ron Gidwitz told NBC News last month.