Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is coming up on the zero hour for his long-anticipated 2024 campaign launch.
After months of travel, preparations and posturing, the governor is set to file paperwork next week declaring his candidacy for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination, a person familiar with the plans told The Hill. The filing is expected to come just before he meets with donors in Miami.
His formal entrance into the race will end months of speculation that have swirled around a deeply conservative governor who quickly emerged as one of the country’s most prominent and influential Republicans.
DeSantis’s political operation declined to comment on or confirm an impending campaign announcement. A senior official with DeSantis’s team noted that the governor had committed to deliver on his promises in Tallahassee before making a decision on a 2024 campaign.
“And he has made good on all his promises to the people of Florida,” the official said.
“The Governor’s political operation is fielding unprecedented interest and support for his candidacy – potentially the biggest bundler operation in Republican presidential primary history,” the official said, later adding that DeSantis’s “operational strength should not be underestimated.”
There has been little doubt about DeSantis’s intentions. He began touring the country earlier this year to promote his latest book — a move that was widely viewed as a soft launch for an eventual campaign. And he’s steadily assembled a political team, bringing in veteran campaign staffers and consultants and expanding his once-small political circle.
Last weekend, he attended a pair of Republican fundraising events in Iowa and made a surprise stop in Des Moines. Two days later, his political shop moved out of Florida GOP headquarters and into a new office space, beginning the countdown to a formal campaign launch.
“He’s running around Iowa and has an army of 26-year-olds in Tallahassee,” one Republican donor who’s backing DeSantis for the GOP’s 2024 nomination told The Hill. “Let’s rip the Band-Aid and get on with it.”
DeSantis’s central argument for his candidacy is simple: that he’s more electable than former President Trump. He’s repeatedly pointed to his 19-point reelection victory in November and his long list of legislative accomplishments to argue that he’s not only a winner, but a conservative fighter.
Speaking in Iowa last Saturday, DeSantis sought to appeal directly to Republican malaise after several lackluster election cycles that saw the party lose the House, the Senate and the White House. The GOP, he said, needed to shake its recent streak of failure.
“We must reject the culture of losing that has impacted our party in recent years. The time for excuses is over,” DeSantis said in Sioux Center, Iowa. “If we get distracted, if we focus the election on the past or on other side issues, then I think the Democrats are going to beat us again.”
And in a call with donors Thursday reported by The New York Times, DeSantis made his case that there are only three credible candidates for the White House: Trump, President Biden and himself.
“And I think of those three, two have a chance to get elected president — Biden and me, based on all the data in the swing states, which is not great for the former president and probably insurmountable because people aren’t going to change their view of him,” DeSantis said, according to the Times.
The exact details of DeSantis’s announcement plans are being held close. His meeting with donors is expected to take place sometime mid-week, and the Times reported Thursday that he’s likely to release a video to coincide with his candidacy filing.
There are still challenges ahead for DeSantis. His decision to wait until after his state’s annual legislative session to launch a campaign created an opening for Trump and his allies to go on the attack and define the early phase of the race, while the governor was tied up with official business in Tallahassee.
And despite public polling that shows him running in second place in the nascent 2024 primary field, he’s still well behind Trump, and there are signs that his support has begun to flatline.
Yet his allies remain optimistic about his prospects, noting that he’s maintained relatively steady support without formally campaigning. They also point to his high favorability numbers among Republican voters in key early states like Iowa, suggesting that there’s still plenty of room for him to grow his base of support.
During his Saturday trip to Iowa, DeSantis made a surprise stop in Des Moines, not far from where Trump was scheduled to appear. Trump scrapped his planned rally amid tornado warnings in the area.
DeSantis has also won an extensive list of endorsements from key elected officials in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first and second states, respectively, to vote in the GOP’s 2024 nominating contest. On Wednesday, 99 of Florida’s 113 Republican state legislators announced their support for DeSantis.
“People think this is an automatic coronation of the former president,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), one of four Republican members of Congress who have endorsed DeSantis for the 2024 nomination. “It isn’t. I promise you.”