Ron DeSantis Launches Presidential Campaign Like Right-Wing Troll

Ron DeSantis, who had been quietly campaigning for months, formally announced his candidacy on Wednesday. The governor of Florida, whose bigoted culture wars have made him a hero to the far right, has formally entered the race for the 2024 Republican nomination with an announcement made on Twitter Spaces, positioning himself as a more electable version of Donald Trump, whose movement DeSantis hopes to inherit.

“We must end the culture of losing that has infected the Republican Party in recent years,” Ron DeSantis tweeted Wednesday after speaking with Elon Musk and David Sacks, a venture capitalist and ally of both men. “The old dogmas can’t fuel a new and exciting century.”

Before the Twitter Space with Musk and Sacks, which was plagued by technical difficulties for nearly 30 minutes, DeSantis released a minute-long video promoting his policies in Florida. Trump, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Asa Hutchinson, Larry Elder, Tim Scott, and others have already declared their candidacies, so this announcement seemed like a precursor to the forthcoming campaign: a run fueled by the very-online right, launched on the platform Musk has helped make a home for that very extremism. During the livestream, DeSantis called for fighting a “woke mind virus” and fielded questions from supporters like Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, who has endorsed Ron DeSantis for president, and Jay Bhattacharya, an economist and health policy expert from Stanford University who criticized the COVID-19 lockdowns and has since joined DeSantis’ Covid-19 response brain trust.

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As a result of his fight against this so-called “wokeness” in his home state — that is, a cruel crusade against Black Floridians, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, and abortion rights — Ron DeSantis, who had long been expected to run for president, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in GOP politics in recent years. After winning a second term as governor last year, in a speech that doubled as a soft launch for his presidential campaign, he declared, “Florida is where woke goes to die.”

However, as he has considered running for president, DeSantis’ star has begun to fade. He has been the target of relentless attacks from Trump, who sees his bid as a personal betrayal; the former president has reasserted his position as the Republican Party’s most prominent figure; and DeSantis’ ambitions have put the spotlight on his own peculiarities, lack of charisma, and general unlikeability. A few months ago, he seemed like the next big demagogue for the Republican Party. But even before he officially launches his campaign, he’s being unfairly compared to another candidate with the name “Jeb!” Taking his culture wars to new extremes on issues like abortion and book bans has angered even some supporters within his own party, and he has lost the endorsement of Trump as well as nearly half of Florida’s congressional delegation. Former Republican Senatorial Committee finance chair Ron Gidwitz told NBC News last month, “I think he’s in trouble.”

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