Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is officially running for president.
He filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission
He's the top rival to former President Donald Trump, with four other people in the race.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a former Trump acolyte who flipped Florida from purple to red and parlayed his controversial COVID-19 policies into an "anti-woke" movement that extended across education, law, and business, is running for president.
The governor made his presidential run official on Wednesday by filing paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission. He'll be doing an interview on Twitter Spaces with billionaire Elon Musk, the Twitter CEO, at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Making his candidacy official brings DeSantis to the top of the primary contest against former President Donald Trump, who — despite two impeachments, inciting the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, a conviction of sexual assault, and becoming the first president in history to be indicted — still dominates the polls.
Indeed, as Trump rose in national surveys, DeSantis fell back. Trump has openly said he viewed DeSantis as "disloyal" for challenging him after he backed his 2018 gubernatorial bid that ensured he locked down the GOP nomination. He has attacked DeSantis' votes, as a US House member, to slash Social Security and Medicare and insinuated, without evidence, that DeSantis was gay and involved with minors.
DeSantis' entrance into the race will have observers closely watching how he'll take on Trump. The governor passive aggressively hit Trump for months after winning reelection in Florida, but then more directly attacked him over "drama" and the salacious pieces of the indictment, involving an adult film actress. The strategy failed as the GOP rallied around Trump.
DeSantis is the seventh person to enter the primary that, other than Trump, already includes former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, radio host Larry Elder, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who held his campaign event Monday.
Other candidates, including former Vice President Mike Pence and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, are still considering entering the primary.
DeSantis running to the right of Trump
Should DeSantis, 44, become the GOP nominee, he would face off against Joe Biden, the oldest president in history who will turn 81 this year. DeSantis has made his young, telegenic family with his wife, Florida first lady Casey DeSantis, a centerpiece of his public image.
Casey DeSantis shared a video on Twitter Tuesday evening teasing her husband's campaign. It showed the governor coming onto the stage and behind an American Flag. "America has been worth it every single time," a male voiceover in the video says.
DeSantis is likely to run to the right of Trump. The Florida legislature in early May wrapped up its lawmaking session that gave DeSantis many of the policy wins he asked for, from loosening gun regulations and making it harder for undocumented immigrants to work in Florida, to chipping away transgender rights and striking back at Walt Disney World in a bitter, drawn-out fight about LGBTQ topics in public schools.
DeSantis still has to sign the state's budget and an elections law that will ensure he doesn't have to resign his position as governor of Florida while running for president. His job as governor of the nation's third-largest state gives him an opportunity to showcase his governing chops and an edge against rivals who don't currently hold office.
He is set to huddle with donors starting Wednesday and into Thursday at the luxurious Four Seasons hotel, located in the downtown Brickell area of Miami, which is a financial district.
Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee, called DeSantis' policies in Florida part of an "extreme MAGA agenda focused on ripping Floridians' freedoms away" in a statement. "Now he wants to take that agenda nationwide," he said.
Much of DeSantis' campaign will be about differentiating himself from Trump. So far, he has pitched himself as an electable alternative, someone who embraces similar policies but avoids leaks and drama from his administration.
DeSantis, however, is a far lesser-known comodity than Trump, giving his rivals the opportunity to fill in the blanks of his personal life and professional history.
It'll soon become clear whether voters embrace his pitch. Some big donors have told reporters on the record that they were concerned DeSantis was too right-wing.
The governor has worked some to introduce himself to voters through a "soft launch" that started in March, when he traveled the country under the auspices of promoting his memoir, "The Courage to be Free."
Signs started building roughly two weeks ago that an official presidential run was imminent. On Monday, DeSantis altered his Twitter handle from @RonDeSantisFL to simply @RonDeSantis.
Last week, DeSantis' political team moved to a new office in Tallahassee, NBC News reported. On Friday, he visited New Hampshire, a key early primary voting state, after several stops in caucus-first Iowa the weekend prior. He racked up endorsements from members of the Florida legislature, while Trump scored most of Florida's congressional delegation.
The DeSantis political operation declined to share details of the governor's plans, including formal rollouts and events that may come later. The governor's hometown of Dunedin, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, is reportedly in the mix for a formal launch.
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