(The Center Square) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday evening that he is running for president.
"Our border is a disaster. Crime infests our cities," DeSantis said in his announcement. "The federal government makes it harder for families to make ends meet. And the president flounders. But decline is a choice. Success is attainable. And freedom is worth fighting for."
DeSantis took subtle shots at former President Donald Trump, saying he had frustration with Trump's inability to enact his agenda and blasted the "culture of losing" in the GOP.
DeSantis' announcement was featured on Twitter, where he spoke live with billionaire Elon Musk, who has said publicly that he would support DeSantis.
"Look, we know our country is going in the wrong direction," DeSantis said to kick off his remarks. "Our southern border is collapsed. Our cities are being hollowed out by spiking crime."
DeSantis hit on the government response to COVID-19, saying his response in Florida kept states around the country from "rolling lockdowns."
"First, we need an honest reckoning about what happened during COVID," DeSantis said, calling the federal pandemic response "authoritarian" and not in line with the data.
"I saw an interest in the narrative and politics over evidence..." DeSantis said during the Twitter Spaces event, which was delayed more than 20 minutes by sound and technical glitches.
Entrepreneur and author David Sacks, who moderated the online conversation, gave a nod to the technical issues, pointing to the high number of online attendees, saying they were likely "melting the servers" before asking DeSantis a series of questions about his stances and the negative attacks he has received.
Free speech and media bias were a central topic of the conversation.
"The legacy media, the corporate media, they are in their little bubble," DeSantis said.
Musk chimed in as well, emphasizing the need for free speech and open dialogue.
DeSantis also went after President Joe Biden, saying he "takes his cue from the woke mob."
Trump is DeSantis' biggest competition in the GOP primary by far. Polling from Morning Consult surveyed Republican primary voters and put DeSantis in second place among the contender with 18% support, though far behind Trump, who came in at 61% support.
"Righting the ship requires restoring sanity to our society, normalcy to our communities, and integrity to our institutions," DeSantis said in a statement. "Truth must be our foundation — and common sense can no longer be an uncommon virtue. In Florida, we proved that it can be done. We chose facts over fear, education over indoctrination, law and order over rioting and disorder. We held the line when freedom hung in the balance."
Just before the Florida governor's announcement, Trump took to TruthSocial to respond. Trump has publicly attacked DeSantis leading up to this announcement, calling him "unelectable."
"I'd like to personally congratulate 'Rob' DeSanctimonious on finally announcing that he will be entering the race for President of the United States," Trump said. "Hopefully he will get the full experience of being attacked by the Marxists, Communists, and Radical Left Lunatics of our Country, without which he will never know the kind of job he is doing. These Lowlifes & Misfits are far worse than the leaders of hostile foreign countries. They must be soundly defeated in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"
DeSantis is coming off a major electoral victory in 2022 during an election where most Republicans underperformed, many of which were the ones Trump backed.
DeSantis' record in Florida will likely take center stage during the campaign as DeSantis has racked up a string of policy and political wins in the Sunshine State.
"[DeSantis'] state is booming. He's got a record of conservative policy accomplishments and a resounding re-election under his belt," Colin Reed, Republican strategist and co-founder of South & Hill Strategies, told The Center Square. "Now he's got to parlay that success at the national level and fend off the inevitable attacks from left, right and center."
Those wins for DeSantis include taking on the "woke establishment" by coupling his tough rhetoric on critical race theory and the LGBT agenda with clear policy wins.
After the Black Lives Matter riots and the following push to defund police, DeSantis sparked controversy and praise from conservatives by offering bonuses to police officers who would come to his state, flying in the face of mainstream media's narrative around race and policing and earning points with the Republican base while doing it.
DeSantis took on the corporate giant Disney after one of the company's executives made clear it wants to advance an LGBT agenda via its programming for kids. DeSantis publicly blasted the company, rallying the conservative base. Meanwhile, he worked with local leaders to strip the company of special tax and governance protections in his state of Florida. DeSantis, who still faces legal challenges from Disney, gained credence from Republican voters for taking on the "woke" corporation and winning.
"I will not allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state," DeSantis said at the time.
In another tough battle, DeSantis took heavy criticism from the media for backing legislation that stopped educators from discussing controversial sexuality and gender topics for young children in the Florida school system. The stance put DeSantis once again at the center of the culture war. Opponents labeled the legislation the "Don't Say Gay" bill in the initial controversy, but DeSantis pushed through the backlash, fighting publicly with the media, which was later forced to admit the bill does not include those words.
DeSantis' decision to stand firm for controversial social stances combined with a willingness to take on the mainstream media have bolstered his reputation among conservatives and propelled him to second place in the primary.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., announced Monday that he is running for president as well. In the same Morning Consult poll, Scott comes in well behind DeSantis, with 1% support.
The first GOP caucus is in Iowa on Jan. 22, 2024, while the first GOP primary is Jan. 30 of the same year in New Hampshire. However, the first cohort of states holding their presidential primary votes is in March of next year.
Radio host and commentator Larry Elder, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy have announced their 2024 ambitions as well. The Morning Consult poll put Haley and Ramaswamy both at 4% support.
Former Vice President Mike Pence is still considering a bid.