In Fits and Starts, DeSantis Officially Launches Presidential Campaign

Florida Governor’s long-awaited announcement earned derision from his opponents on both sides of the aisle

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: May 25, 2023

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis formally launched his presidential campaign Wednesday after a series of technological glitches delayed the announcement. (Photo via DeSantis for President)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

After months of speculation, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis officially announced a campaign for the 2024 Republican nomination for president on Wednesday, but his supporters were forced to endure yet one more delay as his scheduled 6 p.m. Eastern launch was repeatedly disrupted.

U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) talking with reporters near the Senate Subway. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Though DeSantis planned to announce his campaign in an audio-only Twitter “Space” with the site’s owner, Elon Musk, the event was plagued by glitches: users were kicked off the app several times as audio cut in and out, such that the 600,000-plus audience that had assembled to hear his speech had dwindled to fewer than 200,000 listeners by the time the candidate was finally able to be heard a little after 6:20pm.

The DeSantis campaign team — and Musk, by extension — sought to explain away the issues as evidence for the enthusiasm behind the candidate: “It seems we broke the internet with so much excitement,” the official “Team DeSantis” Twitter account wrote.

DeSantis’ rivals on both sides of the aisle, meanwhile, reveled in the chaos. President Joe Biden urged supporters to head to his campaign’s donation site, which he noted was functioning properly, while former President Donald Trump’s team labeled the launch event a “DeSaster.”

Technological issues aside, DeSantis’ announcement began with a short stump speech followed by a question and answer session with several conservative lawmakers and pundits. “I am running for president of the United States to lead our great American comeback,” DeSantis said.

What ensued was a freewheeling conversation that touched on everything from alleged media censorship to the “woke mind virus” to Bitcoin, as DeSantis argued his experience and popularity in Florida demonstrated his readiness for the nation’s most important job — all while making tacit arguments for his merits over Trump.

“It’s not about building a brand or virtue signaling. It is about delivering results,” DeSantis argued. “And our results in Florida have been second to none. We can and we must deliver big results for America.”

DeSantis’ Florida conservatism earns him praise in Wyoming

Indeed, as DeSantis noted, Florida has become a model for conservative culture war policy, exporting a number of controversial bills on issues of sexuality and energy policy to red states throughout the country.

Wyoming in recent years has been an eager recipient of the Florida way. The state legislature earlier this year unsuccessfully sought to emulate several Sunshine State policies, including the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill — which prevents most discussions of sexual orientation in K-12 schools. And Gov. Mark Gordon recently signed on to an effort led by DeSantis to push back against efforts that promote investors to consider environmental and social causes when planning their portfolios.

In Washington, DeSantis has found a champion in Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who’s repeatedly described him as the “leader of the Republican Party.” Though she told the Wyoming Truth earlier this year that she’ll “likely be staying neutral in the primary and will end up supporting whoever emerges” from the contest, she’s made no secret of her fondness for DeSantis, with whom she previously served in the U.S. House.

“Clearly, President Trump is leading the pack for the presidential nomination at this point,” Lummis said earlier this month. “But DeSantis — his style, and the issues he chooses to emphasize — are very much in keeping with what the public is talking about. That’s why I think he’s the leader of the party.”

Such comments have put Lummis at odds with new Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.), who is firmly in Trump’s camp. She told the Wyoming Truth last month she felt it was her duty to support him given Trump’s popularity in Wyoming. “[Trump] won Wyoming by over 70% of the vote, and I represent Wyoming,” Hageman said.

And though he’s spoken publicly of his fondness for Sen. Tim Scott, his Senate colleague who announced his own presidential bid earlier this week, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has shied away from making any public commentary about the 2024 race. When asked about his stance, he’s noted only that he’ll support the eventual GOP nominee.

A ‘culture war’ fighter through and through

In his announcement Twitter conversation and subsequent interview on Fox News, DeSantis laid out his most fulsome stances on key issues of policy to date.

On matters of the economy, he harshly criticized the Biden administration for “overspending,” which he argued was driving inflation, and urged the Federal Reserve to focus more on maintaining the stability of the dollar. On energy, DeSantis attacked Biden for failing to take advantage of the “abundance of resources” at the nation’s disposal, promising to ramp up domestic energy production — an issue key to many Wyomingites.

On immigration, DeSantis echoed the mainstream GOP argument that the U.S.-Mexico border amounted to a “national emergency,” promising to restart construction on the border wall and crack down on asylum applications.

But DeSantis’ main policy focus stood clearly on the culture wars. He promised to pursue an alternate accreditation board for higher educational institutions to promote those which oppose diversity, equity and inclusion programs and punish those that do. He lashed out at the idea that extreme weather events could be caused by climate change, and attacked Disney for “injecting gender ideology in elementary school.”

“The woke mind virus is a form of cultural Marxism,” DeSantis said. “At the end of the day, it’s an attack on the truth. And I think we have no choice but to wage a war on woke.”

2024 GOP slate comes into focus

DeSantis’ much-anticipated campaign comes as the 2024 GOP race has begun to crystalize; most candidates have begun the pilgrimage to Iowa and New Hampshire, the first primary states, for the retail politicking that has become tradition for those seeking office.

But though he joins a crowded field, DeSantis is seen by many as the greatest threat to Trump. He’s reportedly pitched himself to donors as akin to the former president “without the drama,” and though he’s currently polling over 20 points behind Trump, DeSantis has drawn his ire more than any other candidate.

‘“Rob [sic],” My Red Button is bigger, better, stronger, and is working (TRUTH!), yours does not!,”’ Trump wrote on his social media platform “Truth Social” during DeSantis’ announcement.

But DeSantis seems intent on avoiding being bated into lobbing back schoolyard insults, opting not to stoop to Trumpist name-calling but instead play up his track record over his opponent’s.

“We must end the culture of losing that has infected the Republican Party in recent years,” DeSantis told Musk in perhaps his most pointed criticism of Trump yet.

“I don’t mind being called different things,” he added on Fox. “You call me whatever you want. Just make sure you call me a winner because that’s what we’ve done in the state of Florida.”

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