Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has officially launched his 2024 presidential campaign, though not without hiccups.
His planned Twitter Spaces conversation, scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday, saw multiple technical issues that delayed his announcement by more than 20 minutes, as the platform kept crashing. Twitter owner Elon Musk, who was hosting the conversation, blamed the technical difficulties on servers not having sufficient bandwidth for the hundreds of thousands of people who were tuning in.
After launching a second Spaces from the Twitter account of entrepreneur David Sacks, Musk apologized and said, “I think we’re definitely breaking new ground here. As far as I know. No major presidential candidate has ever announced their candidacy on social media this way, certainly in a Twitter Space. So thank you for doing that.”
DeSantis said he chose to announce via the social media platform because of his distrust with the media after coverage of his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He then praised Musk’s purchase of the company.
“I think what was done with Twitter is really significant for the future of our country. We cannot have a society in which the government is colluding with major tech platforms to enforce an orthodoxy,” DeSantis said.
CBS News reached out to DeSantis’ team for any statement or explanation on the initial crash. They said: “There is so much enthusiasm for Governor DeSantis’ vision for our Great American Comeback that he literally busted up the internet. Washington is next.”
During the discussion, DeSantis laid out his agenda — priorities he has shared during out-of-state remarks leading up to his announcement: addressing national crime rates, promoting energy independence and handling the rise in migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
He also criticized President Joe Biden over the inflation rate, and claimed Mr. Biden “lacks vigor, flounders in the face of our nation’s challenges and he takes his cues from the woke mob.”
DeSantis also got into his electability argument in a Republican primary.
“To voters who are participating in this primary process, my pledge to you is this: If you nominate me you can set your clock to January 20, 2025 at high noon, because on the west side of the U.S. Capitol I will be taking the oath of office as the 47th president of the United States. No excuses. I will get the job done.”
During the early portion when DeSantis was experiencing Twitter difficulties, both former President Trump and President Biden chimed in.
Trump mocked DeSantis’ shirt in his launch video: “His collar is too big!”
And Mr. Biden tweeted, “This link works” — adding a link to donate to his own reelection campaign.
Earlier in the day, DeSantis filed the paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to register as a candidate for president in 2024.
DeSantis will also be appearing on Fox News and conservative radio host Mark Levin’s show on Wednesday night.
Sources say there will be a cocktail reception to fundraise around the time of DeSantis’ announcement as they kick off “dialing for dollars.” The plan is to be “aggressive” in the first day of fundraising.
Two sources said the campaign hopes to raise $8-$10 million in commitments within the first 24 hours after his announcement bid. CBS News has reached out to DeSantis’ political team for confirmation of this goal.
On the Democratic side in 2020, President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke each raised roughly $6 million in their first day, shattering previous records of one-day hauls. Early fundraising allows candidates to travel, hire staff and tend to other campaign needs.
Former President Donald Trump’s early 2024 fundraising has been sluggish. He raised $9.5 million in the first five weeks after his announcement on Nov. 15 through the end of 2022, according to his candidate filings.
Trump’s biggest challenger?
DeSantis enters this race as the likely biggest Republican primary challenger to former Trump, who has steadily attacked DeSantis in the runup to his campaign launch.
A GOP source told CBS News to look for DeSantis to “punch back” now that he’ll be a candidate. “He was busy being governor now he will be a candidate,” the source said.
In April, a CBS News poll showed 58% of likely Republican voters would support Trump in a primary, while 22% picked DeSantis. Former Vice President Mike Pence and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy tied for a distant third, with 5% a piece. While DeSantis has often trailed Trump in other polls, he has also led the rest of the pack of announced and potential Republican presidential contenders by double digits.
But Trump’s attacks, Florida’s new six-week abortion ban and several unforced errors such as his initial answer on whether the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a U.S. priority, have sown doubt about the strength of his candidacy among donors and congressional Republicans.
Allies of Trump and MAGA Inc., a super PAC backing Trump’s campaign, have spent millions on ads hitting the governor on his past support for sales tax and Social Security and Medicare reforms as a congressman. In a post Monday, Trump called DeSantis “unelectable.”
While DeSantis often talks about the “culture of losing” the Republican party has seen in elections since Trump’s presidency, and voters at DeSantis events have shown fatigue with Trump’s behavior and character, he has been judicious about responding directly to Trump’s attacks.
Never Back Down, a super PAC supporting DeSantis that has already spent over $10 million in ads, has taken up the task of answering Trump. Other supporters of DeSantis see him as the “next generation” for the party and note he’s eligible to serve two terms, while Trump could serve only one.
After Trump said the anti-abortion rights community would find Florida’s new six-week abortion ban “too harsh,” DeSantis defended the action and slammed Trump for not saying whether he would sign it.
“When we are acting to protect an unborn child that has a detectable heartbeat, that is humane… It is the right thing to do,” DeSantis said Monday.
DeSantis has incorporated more indirect contrasts with Trump on the trail, boasting bout his “no drama,” leak-free Florida administration.
“There’s no palace intrigue,” he said in Iowa in March.
DeSantis and Trump were at first allies. DeSantis vociferously defended Trump during the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump endorsed DeSantis in his 2018 gubernatorial run, a race in which DeSantis was the underdog in the Republican primary against Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, and DeSantis won the general election by less than one percentage point that year.
The two had a working relationship through DeSantis’ first two years as governor, often connecting after hurricanes and natural disasters had hit Florida. But days before the 2022 midterm elections, Trump coined his first nickname of DeSantis, “Ron DeSanctimonious” at a rally. DeSantis dismissed it in a March interview with Piers Morgan.
Other campaigns privately acknowledge the two are likely to take up a lot of the oxygen in the Republican primary, and they may be feeding it by going on the attack against DeSantis ahead of his launch.
Other 2024 candidates react
A memo to donors released Tuesday by the campaign of former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley labeled DeSantis “mini-Trump” and “Trump without the charm.”
Pence, who is expected to launch his own 2024 campaign in the coming weeks, has publicly disagreed with DeSantis’ ongoing legal fight with Disney and called on the governor to “take the victory for parents’ rights in the Legislature and move on.” Ramaswamy called DeSantis “fundamentally uncourageous.”
Vivek Ramaswamy welcomed DeSantis’ candidacy, saying “more competition breeds strength.”
“We need to be having a rich debate about what do we stand for. Why do we stand for it?” Ramaswamy told CBS News on Wednesday. “And as long as we make it about that, rather than some boring biographical brawl between Trump and DeSantis each attacking each other and boasting about their own accomplishments — I don’t think that does much for the country.”
An operative on another 2024 presidential campaign, sought to emphasize that DeSantis’ effort to aggressively fund his campaign would raise high expectations about his candidacy: “Voters should expect him to be up in the polls within days and directly engaging Trump daily.”
“Anything short of that is further-proof his strength is non-existent,” the operative added.