DeSantis overcomes awkward campaign start and raises $8.2 million ahead of first state offensive
CONCORD, NH (AP) — Governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis On Thursday, he tried to weather the awkward start to his presidential campaign by unveiling an aggressive travel plan as his allies insisted they remain well-funded and well-positioned for a long Republican primary campaign.
While DeSantis supporters privately acknowledged that the botched announcement was an unwanted distraction, the general consensus — even among some Republican critics — was that it was likely to have limited, if any, long-term political ramifications. For the doubters, the campaign confirmed Thursday night that it had raised $8.2 million in the 24 hours since the race began, a whopping sum that far exceeded the amount raised by President Joe Biden over the same period.
“Do you wish you could do it again? Probably,” said David Oman, a veteran Republican activist from Iowa, of the glitch-plagued DeSantis opening. “Are we going to talk about this in 10 days? Probably not.”
DeSantis officially launched its campaign Wednesday night during an online conversation with Twitter CEO Elon Musk. But the audio stream kept crashingThis makes it difficult for most users to hear the real-time announcement.
On Thursday, the Republican governor announced plans for a three-state blitz next week with at least a dozen stops. He is scheduled to campaign in Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to New Hampshire on Thursday and South Carolina on Friday.
“We are fully focused on bringing Governor DeSantis’ forward-looking message on restoring America to every prospective voter in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina,” said campaign manager Generra Peck. “Our campaign strives to seize the time to win these first nominating states. No one will work harder than Governor DeSantis to share his vision with the country – he has only just begun to fight.”
DeSantis portrays himself as the only legitimate Republican rival in the crowded Republican primary for the former president donald trumpwho has a huge lead in early polls and has a significant portion of the GOP’s passionate base firmly in his grip.
Still, Trump is plagued by his own baggage, which includes several legal threats and a fixation on his 2020 election defeat.
Meanwhile, the DeSantis team is opening the campaign with tens of millions of dollars in the bank, including the $8.2 million raised since Wednesday’s announcement, a portion of which came from donations secured by fundraisers gathered in Miami on Thursday became. In the 24 hours after launching his campaign, Biden said he had raised $6.3 million.
The New York Times was the first to report DeSantis’ stunning haul.
An aide for DeSantis-allied Super PAC said the group started with $33 million in the bank and already 30 full-time paid employees in the first four states of the presidential election calendar, with many more hirings already planned for the following 14 states primaries to hold
No other Republican presidential candidate has such an infrastructure, including Trump. His advisers would not say how many employees he has in the early states. “The only numbers we’re going to talk about are the huge leads President Trump is collecting in the early states,” said spokesman Steven Cheung.
DeSantis faced nagging questions about his rocky rollout throughout the day during a conservative media tour Thursday. But he also expressed confidence that there would be a duel against Trump, claiming in a Newsmax interview, “There is a limit to the number of voters who would consider the former president at this point.”
“Now we will launch a lightning attack. We will be in these early states. We’re really going to take that message to our constituents across the country,” DeSantis said. “They also understand that you need someone to serve two terms. You need someone who can win, and win big.”
While Trump’s team continued to sneer — “a #DeSaster of epic proportions,” Donald Trump Jr. wrote on Truth Social — many Republican officials, donors, and early state activists hinted that there would be few long-term consequences.
“Look, I like Elon Musk, but apparently he fired one IT guy too many,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, himself a 2024 Republican presidential candidate and regular DeSantis critic, said on ABC’s The views”. “You can’t blame Ron DeSantis for that.”
“I mean, if Elon Musk said to me, ‘We’re going to stream it,’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, this guy knows what he’s doing.’ It didn’t work,” Sununu added. “Ron’s job was to give the speech and make the points. I think he managed that pretty well.”
Republican strategist Terry Sullivan, who oversaw Senator Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, opined that DeSantis is well positioned to overcome an early stumble.
“Big presidential campaign announcements are all about getting a short-term upside (in the polls) and raising money online,” Sullivan said. “DeSantis doesn’t need either. He just had to get in the running and start campaigning. Mission accomplished.”
Meanwhile, DeSantis has been balancing his ambitions as president with his job.
On his first full day as an announced presidential candidate, the Florida governor signed into law bills to grant tax breaks to Florida residents. They ranged from sales tax exemptions for hurricane and school supplies to permanent exemptions for baby and toddler supplies like diapers. He also agreed to a year-long tax exemption for gas stoves – a direct attack on Democrats, who have raised health concerns about the appliances.
Much of the excitement outside of Florida continued to center around the botched announcement.
Former New Hampshire GOP chairwoman Jennifer Horn described the launch of DeSantis as an “embarrassing missed opportunity.” The only potential longer-term challenge, she said, is that it will serve as a “gift to Donald Trump,” who will almost certainly ensure that it is not soon forgotten.
According to Chris Ager, leader of the New Hampshire Republican Party, there continues to be “a lot of interest” in DeSantis. He said several Republican Party groups have asked DeSantis to speak at their events.
“I think it was a pretty bold move to try something completely new in an announcement,” Ager said.
And while initial polls show Trump has a large lead over DeSantis in New Hampshire primary voters, Ager said a lot could change over time.
“I expect the race to get closer,” he said. “Governor. DeSantis is definitely a serious and legitimate contender for the top spot.”
Republican donor and vocal Trump critic Eric Levine said there was little talk in the donor community about DeSantis’ failure. He said the Florida governor remains one of his top three candidates.
“Nobody leaves him because of that. Whether he lost a few people who might have jumped on the bandwagon if it had been better, I don’t know,” Levine said. “It’s a marathon from now to Iowa.”
Peoples reported from New York. Izaguirre reported from Tallahassee, Florida. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin of New York, Thomas Beaumont of Des Moines, Iowa, and Brendan Farrington of Tallahassee contributed to this report.