Ron DeSantis has announced his entry into the 2024 presidential after declaring himself the only “credible” candidate to beat Donald Trump.
The Florida governor had been expected to run but he made it official on Wednesday after filling documents with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
The 44-year-old Republican revealed his decision in a Federal Election Commission filing ahead of an online conversation with Twitter chief executive Elon Musk.
The discussion with Mr Musk did not get off to an ideal start as the Twitter Spaces feature apparently struggled to cope with the number of people joining the discussion. The opening minutes consisted of complete silence, the occasional explanation from Mr Musk and a brief musical interlude.
Poking fun at the problems, President Joe Biden’s account tweeted a link to donations for his presidential campaign with the caption “this link works”.
Mr DeSantis and Mr Musk discussed their views on free speech and the billionaire’s $44billion purchase of the social networking site last year.
The governor branded recent claims by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that fears the state has become “hostile to Black Americans” under its current leadership a “total farce”.
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“We’re the number one state for net in migration and have been every year since I’ve been governor,” he claimed. “We just kept the highest quarter for tourism in the history of the state of Florida. And our view is we want everybody to succeed regardless of their skin colour.”
He continued, claiming: “And if you want to look at education, Black students in Florida perform much higher than Black students in most other states.”
In a video released on Wednesday night, Mr DeSantis said he wants to lead a “great American comeback”, the latest in a line of camping slogans for 2024.
Mr DeSantis’ popularity spiked following November’s midterm elections where he won a second term in Florida by nearly 20 points while Republicans, supported by Mr Trump, underperformed.
The governor came to prominence after rejecting lockdowns in the Covid-19 pandemic and aims to pitch himself as a champion of culture-war attacks, restricting the teaching on LGBTQ+ issues and a six-week abortion ban, which is one of the toughest in any state.
Mr DeSantis is anti-abortion, believing “The right to life is the most foundational of our God-given rights.”
He is also against gun control, having received an A+, the highest rating, from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Floridians will be able to carry concealed guns without a permit under a bill DeSantis signed this session.
Anyone who can legally own a gun in Florida to carry one without a permit, under the new law from July 1. Background checks will not be needed for concealed carry.
Mr DeSantis, who likely would not have become the Florida governor without Mr Trump’s endorsement, has adopted the former president’s fiery personality, his populist policies and even some of his rhetoric and mannerisms.
He joins a field that already includes: Mr Trump; former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley; South Carolina senator Tim Scott; former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson; and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
Former Vice President Mike Pence is also considered a likely presidential candidate but has not yet announced a bid.
Head-to-head with Trump
Meanwhile, the Republican is to go head-to-head against former president Donald Trump for the nomination but faces a long road ahead, according to recent polling.
The former president Donald Trump announced his 2024 re-election campaign in November.
Mr DeSantis trails Mr Trump by more than 30 points but is said to be ahead of other candidates who are close to running including former vice-president Mike Pence and the former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.
Senator Tim Scott, 57, from South Carolina, announced his presidential candidacy for 2024 on Monday after raising nearly $22million.
In addition, more than 56 per cent of the Republican electorate, according to the latest average of opinion polls compiled by Real Clear Politics, favour Mr Trump over the governor.
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“After campaigning for five months, and going nowhere but down, it looks like Ron DeSanctimonious will soon be entering the race,” Mr Trump said in a post on his social media platform, Truth Social, on Friday. “He has ZERO chance, and MAGA will never forget!”
After a number of recent legal battles and controversies, Mr Trump remains ahead in polling despite being the first president in history to be criminally charged after a Manhattan grand jury in March indicted him on 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up hush-money payments to a porn actor during the 2016 presidential election.
Federal grand juries in Washington are investigating efforts by Mr Trump and his allies to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election and the potential mishandling of classified documents by Mr Trump at his Florida estate.
Yesterday, Mr Trump attended a hearing via video link Manhattan Criminal Court, New York, so that Judge Juan Manuel Merchan can make sure he understands the rules aimed to prevent him from using evidence to attack witnesses.
During the hearing, a date for Mr Trump’s criminal trial was confirmed as being set for March 25, 2024, slap bang in the middle of the GOP primaries which run from February to June next year.
Mr Trump, seated next to his attorney Todd Blanche, threw his hands up in court as he was given this news.
He also faces being sued again by E. Jean Carroll, the advice columnist who won a $5 million sexual abuse and defamation award against him.
She is seeking at least $10 million more in a court filing Monday that seeks to hold him liable for remarks he made after the verdict.
The amended lawsuit was filed in Manhattan by Carroll’s lawyers, who said Mr Trump “doubled down” on derogatory remarks about the former Elle magazine columnist during a cable television appearance a day after the verdict.
A nine-person jury two weeks ago decided Mr Trump had sexually abused Ms Carroll at an upscale Manhattan department store in early spring 1996.
It also found that Mr Trump had made false statements that damaged her reputation after she went public with her allegations in a 2019 book.
What does Ron DeSantis stand for?
Mr DeSantis has become known for his popularity in the Sunshine State and the aggressive agenda he has tried to push through the state.
The governor signed a bill banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, but it won’t take effect unless the state’s current 15-week ban is upheld in an ongoing legal challenge that is before the state Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservatives.
Critics of the law say that many women do not realise they are pregnant in the six-week time frame given to them to have the procedure.
For women seeking access to abortion in the South, the bill will be a tragic low. Nearby states of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have all banned abortions at all stages of pregnancy.
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More controversy over Mr DeSantis’ policy surrounds his ‘Don’t Say Gay’ – a name given to the law by its critics – school policy.
Children below the third grade – where pupils are aged from eight to nine years old – cannot be taught about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Conservatives say this is to avoid the sexualisation of children.
The DeSantis governorship now plans to extend this policy and put forward a proposal before the state Board of Education to expand the policy to grades 4-12, unless required by existing state standards or as part of reproductive health instruction that students can choose not to take.
The board, which is appointed by Mr DeSantis, approved the proposal and the Legislature put it into law.
Bizarrely, the Don’t Say Gay legislation earned Mr DeSantis the wrath of Disney, causing a public spat between the two.
The governor dissolved Disney World’s self-governing district and appointed a new board of supervisors to take over the roles. In response, Diney pushed through an eleventh-hour agreement that stripped the new supervisors of much of their authority.
Mr DeSantis’ education officials have said the policy is intended to make clear that teachers should adhere to the state education curriculum.
Also in schools, the newly confirmed presidential candidate signed a bill that prevents school staffers or students from being required to refer to people by pronouns that don’t correspond to the person’s sex.
School staff are not allowed to ask students what pronouns they use and staffers are banned from sharing their pronouns with students if they do not correspond with the staffer’s sex.
Every public school must adhere to the policy that “a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait and that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex.”
The Stop WOKE Act, which restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in schools and businesses, was also enacted last year.
Colleges, meanwhile, are not allowed to use state or federal funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programmes, which Republicans have claimed are racially divisive.