Florida Governor DeSantis launches US presidential bid

After months of anticipation, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has officially launched his United States presidential campaign in a rocky, glitch-filled broadcast over Twitter.

“We need the courage to lead and we must have the strength to win,” he said after technical issues delayed Wednesday’s announcement by more than 20 minutes.

“If you nominate me, you can set your clock to January 20th, 2025, at high noon because on the west side of the US Capitol, I will be taking the oath of office as the 47th president.”

The broadcast, which was hosted by Twitter CEO Elon Musk and right-wing entrepreneur David Sacks, initially faltered multiple times.

“It just keeps crashing, huh?” someone was heard asking early on. The hosts later credited the technical difficulties to “scaling issues”.

“Just a massive number of people online,” one of the hosts can be heard saying. “So servers are straining somewhat.”

Republican field grows
Wednesday’s bumpy announcement sets up a fight between DeSantis and the presumed Republican frontrunner, former President Donald Trump.

Other Republican candidates include Senator Tim Scott, former envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who served under Trump, is also likely to launch a presidential campaign.

The teams for at least two presidential hopefuls — Trump and Haley — responded to DeSantis’s fumbling Twitter broadcast with social media posts of their own, showcasing their smoother campaign launches.

Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, also weighed in on Twitter, comparing DeSantis to the failed campaign of 2016 candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “DeSantis is making JEB!” He also dubbed the broadcast a “#DeSaster”.

The winner of the Republican presidential primary will face off against the Democratic nominee in the 2024 election, with current President Joe Biden the party’s likely nominee. Biden appeared to pan the governor’s technical difficulties on Wednesday, tweeting out a prompt to donate to his campaign with the caption, “This link works.”

Trump-endorsed governor becomes rival
DeSantis was endorsed by Trump during his first gubernatorial campaign in 2018, but he has since risen to national prominence in conservative circles as he champions right-wing policies in Florida.

Recent public opinion polls show DeSantis trailing Trump by a wide margin in a hypothetical primary showdown. But with the former president facing legal trouble, including criminal charges in New York, the Florida governor will be hoping to close the gap in the coming months.

The first Republican primaries will take place in Iowa early in 2024.

Trump has been regularly attacking DeSantis and touting his poll numbers on his Truth Social account. But so far, the Florida governor has largely ignored the criticism from the former president.

A 44-year-old US Navy veteran and former congressman, DeSantis will likely present himself throughout his campaign as an alternative to Trump. He also is expected to position himself as a candidate who can take the right-wing agenda he effectively implemented in Florida to the national level.

Many conservative commentators blamed Trump for the Republican Party’s worse-than-expected performance in the US midterm elections last year. In the same vote, DeSantis comfortably won re-election in Florida.

DeSantis recently suggested he would be a better nominee than Trump because he can serve for eight years and cement the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. The former president can only serve four years because of term limits.

“I think if you look over, you know, the next two presidential terms, there is a good chance that you could be called upon to seek replacements for Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito,” DeSantis said, referring to two conservatives on the top court.

On Tuesday, the governor’s wife, Casey DeSantis, tweeted a video in the style of a campaign advertisement showing DeSantis advancing towards an enormous US flag. A narrator speaks over dramatic music, saying the US is “worth” fighting for.

But early on Wednesday, Trump hit out at DeSantis, referring to him as “DeSancuts” for voting to cut social safety net programmes, including Social Security, when he was in Congress.

“Also, he desperately needs a personality transplant and, to the best of my knowledge, they are not medically available yet. A disloyal person!” Trump wrote in a social media post.

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