Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday tried to shake off an embarrassing start to his presidential campaign by outlining an aggressive travel schedule as his allies insisted he remains well-funded and well-positioned for the long Republican primary ahead.
While DeSantis’ supporters privately acknowledged that the botched announcement was an unwelcome distraction, there was widespread perception — even among some Republican critics — that it was likely to have limited, if any, long-term political impact. For those doubters, the campaign confirmed Thursday night that it had raised $8.2 million in the 24 hours since entering the race, a whopping amount that far exceeds what President Joe Biden raised in the same period.
“Do they want to do it again? Probably,” David Amman, a veteran Iowa Republican, said of DeSantis’ botched opening. “Are we going to talk about it in 10 days? Probably not.”
DeSantis officially launched his company Wednesday night during an online conversation with Twitter CEO Elon Musk. But the audio stream repeatedly glitched, making it difficult for most users to hear the announcement in real time.
On Thursday, the Republican governor announced plans to hold a three-state blitz next week that will include 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 focused on bringing Governor DeSantis’ visionary message about rebuilding America to every potential voter in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina,” said campaign manager Genera Peck. “Our campaign is focused on taking the time to win these early states. No one will work harder than Governor DeSantis to share his vision with the country — he’s just getting started.”
DeSantis sees himself as the only legitimate Republican challenger in the crowded GOP primary against former President Donald Trump, who has a large lead in early polls and a strong hold on a significant portion of the GOP base.
Yet Trump suffers from his own baggage, which includes numerous legal threats and an obsession with losing the 2020 election.
DeSantis’ team, meanwhile, is opening the campaign with tens of millions of dollars in the bank, including $8.2 million raised since Wednesday’s announcement, some of which came from donations secured by fundraisers gathered Thursday in Miami. In the 24 hours since his campaign began, Biden said he raised $6.3 million.
The New York Times was the first to report DeSantis’ stunning haul.
An adviser to the allied DeSantis super PAC said the group started with $33 million in the bank and 30 full-time paid staff already working in the first four states on the presidential primary calendar, with more hires already planned in the next 14 states. for conducting primary competitions.
No Republican presidential candidate has that kind of infrastructure, including Trump. His aides declined to say how many employees he has in early states. “The only numbers we’re going to talk about are the huge advantages that President Trump is building up in the early swing states,” spokesman Stephen Cheng said.
DeSantis faced nagging questions about his difficult deployment during a daylong tour of conservative media Thursday. But he also projected confidence in taking on Trump, telling Newsmax: “At this point, there’s a limit to the number of voters who would consider a former president.”
“Now we will start the blitz. We will be in these early states. We’re really going to be all over the country getting this message out to our constituents,” DeSantis said. “They also understand that someone needs to serve two terms. You need someone who can win and win big.”
While Trump’s team piled on the glee — “#DeSaster of epic proportions,” Donald Trump Jr. wrote on Truth Social — many Republican officials, donors and early state activists suggested there would be little long-term impact.
“Look, I like Elon Musk, but apparently he fired too many IT guys,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, himself a 2024 Republican presidential candidate and frequent critic of DeSantis, said on ABC “The View”. “You can’t blame Ron DeSantis for that.”
“I mean, if Elon Musk said to me, ‘We’re going to broadcast this,’ I’d be like, ‘Yeah, this guy knows what he’s doing.’ It didn’t work,” Sununu added. “Ron’s job was to give a speech and make the points. I think he did a pretty good job.”
Republican strategist Terry Sullivan, who managed Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, suggested DeSantis is well-positioned to overcome an early stumble.
“The big presidential campaign announcements are just a short-term bounce (in the polls) and raising money online,” Sullivan said. “DeSantis needs neither. He just needed to get into the race and start campaigning. Mission accomplished.”
DeSantis, meanwhile, has been balancing his presidential ambitions with his day job.
In his first full day as a declared presidential candidate, Florida’s governor signed bills to give Florida residents tax breaks. They ranged from tax holidays for hurricane sales and school supplies to permanent exemptions for baby and toddler needs like diapers. He also approved a one-year exemption from taxes on gas stoves — a direct blow to Democrats who have raised health concerns about the appliances.
Much of the buzz outside of Florida focused on the botched announcement.
Former New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horne called DeSantis’ deployment “an embarrassing missed opportunity.” The only potential long-term problem, she said, was that it serves as a “gift to Donald Trump” that would almost certainly ensure it would not be forgotten anytime soon.
According to New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Chris Ager, there has been a “high level of interest” in DeSantis. He said several GOP groups are asking DeSantis to speak at their events.
“I think it was a pretty bold move to try something completely new in the announcement,” Ager said.
And while early polls show Trump far ahead of DeSantis among New Hampshire primary voters, Eger said a lot can change over time.
“I fully expect the race to intensify,” he said. “The DeSantis administration is certainly a serious and legitimate contender for the top spot.”
Republican donor and Trump critic Eric Levin said there was little chatter in the donor community that DeSantis had stumbled out of the gate. He said the Florida governor remains one of his top three candidates.
“Because of this, no one leaves him. I don’t know if he lost a couple of people who could have jumped in if it was better,” Levine said. “Now, it’s a marathon from now to Iowa.”