Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an outspoken cultural conservative =seen as former President Donald Trump’s leading rival for the Republican nomination, is set to launch his 2024 presidential campaign on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
The 44-year-old Republican governor plans to announce his decision in an online conversation with Twitter CEO Elon Musk.
The audio-only event will be streamed on Twitter Spaces. DeSantis will follow up with a round of prime-time appearances on conservative programs, including Fox News and Mark Levin’s radio show.
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DeSantis gave no hint as to his plans during a meeting of the state clemency board in Tallahassee on Wednesday, where he granted several pardons to former prisoners charged mostly with drug-related crimes decades ago.
“You are what the country needs,” one man said after getting his pardon.
A smiling DeSantis chuckled and thanked him.
By day’s end, DeSantis planned to join the crowded Republican contest to decide whether the party will again embrace, or move on, from Trump in 2024 as it works to take the White House from President Joe Biden.
Beyond Trump, those already in the GOP field include former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Former Vice President Mike Pence is expected to announce his candidacy in the coming weeks.
Trump continued his months-long verbal assault against DeSantis on Wednesday, arguing in a social media post that “Ron DeSanctus” cannot win the general election or the GOP primary because of his previous votes in Congress on Social Security and Medicare.
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“He was, and is, a disciple of horrible RINO Paul Ryan, and others too many to mention,” Trump wrote. “Also, he desperately needs a personality transplant and, to the best of my knowledge, they are not medically available yet. A disloyal person!”
DeSantis casts himself as a younger and more electable version of the former president.
In choosing Twitter to launch his candidacy, DeSantis is taking a page out of the playbook that helped turn businessman-TV celebrity Trump into a political star.
The timing of DeSantis’ long-expected announcement has been shrouded, with various iterations of plans being leaked over the past few days. Some close to him suspected that he was providing conflicting information about the timing and location to root out leakers. Others believe he changed his initial preparations after news reports came out about them.
Musk, speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit event in London on Tuesday, seemed to confirm the Wednesday event, saying DeSantis would be making “quite an announcement” on Twitter. “The first time something like this is happening on social media,” he said, with live questions and answers.
DeSantis was expected to meet with donors Wednesday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami before the evening Twitter conversation.
While it is common for campaigns to publicize their announcements in videos shared on social media, it is far more unusual — and perhaps unprecedented — to hold a campaign announcement in a live social media forum.
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“Big if true …,” DeSantis’ wife, Casey, posted Tuesday on Twitter, linking to a Fox News story on the announcement and adding a smiley face.
DeSantis has emerged as a national star in Republican politics as an unapologetic leader on controversial cultural issues.
The governor sent dozens of immigrants from Texas — by way of Florida — to a Democrat-controlled, wealthy island off the Massachusetts coast to draw attention to the influx of illegal immigrants flooding across the Southern border into red states. He signed and then expanded a Parental Rights in Education bill, which bans instruction or classroom discussion of transgenderism and homosexuality in Florida public schools, for all grades.
More recently, he signed a law banning abortions at six weeks. And he removed a Democratic prosecutor who vowed not to charge people under Florida’s abortion restrictions or doctors who perform transgender surgery on minors.
Trump’s allies mocked DeSantis’ announcement plans.
“This is one of the most out-of-touch campaign launches in modern history. The only thing less relatable than a niche campaign launch on Twitter, is DeSantis’ after party at the uber elite Four Seasons resort in Miami,” said Karoline Leavitt, a spokesperson for Trump’s super PAC.
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In choosing to announce with Musk, DeSantis is linking his presidential announcement to one of the world’s richest men, who has emerged as a conservative cult hero of sorts.
Since buying Twitter last October, Musk has reinstated the accounts of prominent Republicans, including Trump and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had been removed. Popular conservative broadcasters have flocked to Twitter, with ousted Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the podcast hosts of The Daily Wire announcing they will start streaming on the platform.
About 1 in 5 U.S. adults say they use Twitter, the Pew Research Center found last year.
Democrats are somewhat more likely than Republicans to say they have Twitter accounts, according to a Fox News poll from December. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say Musk buying Twitter was a good thing and to have a favorable view of him.
The Associated Press contributed to this article