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Ron ‘The Résumé’ DeSantis Debuts Presidential Bid on Twitter

How a former congressman became Republicans’ best hope to defeat Trump.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis became the first presidential candidate to make his campaign announcement on Twitter Spaces, a move that underscores the Republican’s online sensibilities as well as his desire to circumvent the mainstream news media.

The friendly Q-and-A aired on Twitter Spaces, an audial townhall-style feature on Musk’s platform, which has come under fire from the left for being a right-wing social-media website under his watch. At first, the launch was plagued with technical difficulties, but after Musk opened up a new space for listeners to tune in via smartphones and MacBooks (some personal-computer users complained they couldn’t listen), DeSantis had the floor.

“Buckle up when I get in there – because the status quo is not acceptable,” DeSantis said during one exchange about his plans to reform the government from the White House.

But DeSantis spent no time talking about the former occupant of the White House, his one-time ally, former President Trump, whom he’s running against now. Instead, the wonky governor showed a deep understanding and highly conservative interpretations of policy, dropping references to legal doctrine and regulatory nuances while he inveighed against “ideological capture” and “accreditation cartels” in education.

Like Musk, DeSantis is wont to decry the spread of the “woke mind virus” of left-wing progressivism in academia, major corporations and mainstream news media companies.


Unlike Musk – or any other presidential candidate in the field – DeSantis this year notched an unprecedented string of culture war wins: banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy; allowing the permitless carrying of concealed firearms; cracking down on illegal immigration; expanding “school choice” vouchers; limiting transgender therapies for some adults and banning them for kids to the point it can be considered child abuse; stopping minors from attending drag shows; prohibiting preK-12 instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity; blocking an Advance Placement African-American Studies course in schools; and undoing Disney World’s special governing status after the company last year publicly opposed some of the LGBT-related education issues listed above.

An entranceway to Walt Disney World on February 08, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.
Disney filed suit against DeSantis over his actions against the company. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The NAACP, pro-immigrant groups and LGBT rights organizations have issued separate travel advisories that warn people about visiting Florida under DeSantis’ administration. A DeSantis spokesman dismissed the advisories as feckless stunts. And in a Republican primary, opposition from Democratic-aligned groups like these – as well as DeSantis’s extensive record – only help with GOP voters.

Musk and a few Twitter users he selected to interact with DeSantis covered many of the policies during the Q-and-A session that was moderated by entrepreneur David Sacks, a Musk ally who also contributed to DeSantis’s political committee during his reelection, which he won by a historic margin of nearly 20 percentage points.

Sacks, who repeatedly criticized the media as well, hit on most of the topics and gave DeSantis ample opportunity to explain his positions. He also highlighted DeSantis’s fight with Disney, noting that Democrats used to oppose the company’s self-governing status and Republicans used to support it.

“Nobody has probably made Disney more money than me because they were open in Florida during Covid and they were closed in California,” DeSantis said.


DeSantis, 44, becomes the eighth candidate to enter the presidential race and is polling in second-place well behind the frontrunner, Trump.

Early in his political career, DeSantis was seen as a rising star after winning a multi-candidate Republican congressional primary in 2012 that essentially decided the nomination because of how conservative his Northeast Florida district was. DeSantis’s team leaned into his bio as a Florida boy who went to the Little League World Series from his hometown team in Dunedin, was a star player at Yale University, earned a law degree at Harvard University and then served as a judge adjutant general attorney in the U.S. Navy during the Iraq war.

US Representative Ron DeSantis, Republican of Florida, and candidate for Florida Governor, speaks during a rally with US President Donald Trump at Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Florida, on July 31, 2018.
DeSantis during a rally at Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Florida, on July 31, 2018. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

With a bio like that, he earned a nickname in Republican consultant circles in Tallahassee, “The Résumé.”

But it wasn’t enough to earn him statewide office.

In 2016, he briefly ran for U.S. Senate but withdrew when Sen. Marco Rubio reversed course and ran for reelection. Rubio’s change of heart came after Trump beat the Floridian in 66 of the states 67 counties during the 2016 primary for president.


Prior to his bid for governor, DeSantis was not a Trump supporter, but he refashioned himself into a vociferous Trump backer after the presidential election.

In 2018, DeSantis ran for governor against the better-known and better-funded Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Thanks to the help of DeSantis’s then-colleague, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Trump endorsed DeSantis, which caused him to catch fire and win the primary. He barely won the general election against Democrat Andrew Gillum, by less than half a percentage point.

“He's very disloyal,” Trump told The Messenger, referring to DeSantis, last week. “He was a dead man walking. He was dead, dead as a doornail. And I revived him.”

Ron DeSantis speaks with U.S. President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at the Pensacola International Airport on November 3, 2018 in Pensacola, Florida.
Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign rally with Donald Trump on November 3, 2018 in Pensacola, Florida. (Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

After a year in office, DeSantis became a national political figure because of the way he handled COVID-19 in Florida, banning mask mandates, quickly ending lockdowns after briefly instating them, and opening schools earlier than the teachers’ unions and experts said was safe. The ensuing media criticism — and DeSantis’s refusal to back down — made him a conservative darling willing to fight the mainstream news media.

It’s paying dividends to this day on the campaign trail, according to David Kochel, a veteran strategist who hails from Iowa, which holds the first contest in the Republican nominating contest, in January. DeSantis is pinning his presidential fortunes on Iowa. He also has the backing to compete in the other three early states and beyond thanks to the support of the Never Back Down super PAC, which has plans to spend as much as $200 million on his behalf.

“In my home state of Iowa, people really want to hear his story and the Florida story, how the national media targeted him over opening up the state during Covid, and it turned out he was where the base of the party is,” Kochel said, adding that Kim Reynolds, a fellow Republican governor, took a similar position in Iowa.

“DeSantis,” he said, “is just in the best position of anybody to take on Trump and beat him somewhere, and that somewhere is probably Iowa and, then, probably New Hampshire. And if that happens, national polls don’t matter and it’s a whole new day,”


But for all the buzz, all his conservative credentials, all his youth and all the money behind him, DeSantis enters the race for president in far-worse shape than he or his allies initially imagined.

When DeSantis sketched out his campaign plans late last year, Trump was in decline, blamed for helping advance weak Senate candidates that helped cost his party control of the chamber. Unwilling to admit he lost to President Joe Biden, Trump was seen as obsessing about the past. And he was saddled with multiple criminal investigations.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 19, 2022.

DeSantis even edged Trump in a few polls of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire and their mutual home state of Florida as the governor executed his plan to earn more nationwide name ID with campaign-style stops masquerading as a book tour for his new tome. He then planned to return to Tallahassee and held more events across Florida, and signed the conservative legislation into law that passed in the legislative session that ended May 5, then announce his candidacy.

All of that happened.


But in late March, Trump announced he would be indicted by New York City District Attorney Alvin Bragg for alleged business fraud in a case tied to hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Republicans rallied to Trump’s side, and even some liberals questioned the indictment. But, initially, DeSantis kept silent. It took him a few days to settle on a consistent message. Trump’s poll numbers steadily ticked up. DeSantis, who also seemed unsure in how to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saw his poll numbers against Trump either hold or marginally decline.

President Donald Trump sits at the defense table with his defense team in a Manhattan court during his arraignment on April 4, 2023
Donald Trump sits at the defense table during his arraignment on April 4, 2023, in New York City. (Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images)Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images

“The biggest in-kind campaign contributor to Donald Trump is undoubtedly Alvin Bragg,” joked Chad Connelly, the former chairman of the Republican Party in South Carolina, which holds the first-in-the-South primary that has picked the GOP nominee in 11 of the last 12 contests.

“After that Bragg indictment, the race changed in Trump’s favor,” said Connelly, who is neutral in the race. “I’m not saying it will always be on this way. But that Trump indictment brought him a lot of support.”

DeSantis’ camp acknowledges Trump’s advantages, but the governor’s backers insist that the trajectory of the race will change now that he’s a full-fledged candidate and he’ll be able to act like one.


“Certainly, Trump has had a sugar high from the indictment. But DeSantis is not a candidate yet,” Roy Bailey, a Texas-based investor and former top Trump fundraiser now backing DeSantis, told The Messenger before DeSantis’ announcement. “Some of these campaigns are out there running on the track and DeSantis hasn’t even put his cleats on yet. And he’s already in second place.”

Part of DeSantis’ calculus in running was making the primary a two-man race with Trump, but as DeSantis’s standing slipped, more Republicans entered the contest or began talking about it. It’s a scenario that troubles a broad swath of Republicans who note that a multi-candidate “clown car” primary could divide up the non-Trump vote in the GOP and help Trump win.

“Trump is undoubtedly the 800-pound gorilla in the room. It will be very difficult to beat him,” said Saul Anuzis, a top Republican consultant and former Republican National Committee member from the swing state of Michigan. “Right now, it’s Trump vs. everyone else until a viable alternative emerges. I think everyone thought DeSantis is the most viable, but his campaign hasn’t really started.”

Ron DeSantis in Iowa
DeSantis speaking in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on May 13, 2023. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Anuzis said DeSantis’s campaign and candidacy should be judged after a month or so, once he’s on the campaign trail and able to function as a candidate.

“That is going to be the time,” he said, “for people to say, ‘ok is he the most viable alternative?’ What are the issues? What’s happening when he’s out there shaking hands and talking to people saying, ‘hey, I’m running for president. I want your support. That’s very different from beating around the bush, not being able to fully respond, not being on message with regards to what his campaign may or may not be.”


Known for being standoffish, press averse and socially awkward at times, DeSantis’s nearly every interaction with voters has come under intense scrutiny from the national media and his opponents, who note that the prickly governor had poor relations with fellow Republican members of Congress, about half of whom endorsed Trump earlier this year.

The congressional endorsements led to a flood of national media stories and social media chatter questioning his retail political skills and his viability. Numerous pundits have said his campaign is over before it starts, which Republican insiders dispute.

“DeSantis isn’t done. His shot isn’t over. He has four more shots,” said Terry Sullivan, a strategist who hails from South Carolina and who managed Rubio’s 2016 campaign. “The question is: Will his personality wear well with voters?”

Days before DeSantis announced, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott officially launched his campaign. Scott, polling in low single digits, has about $22 million in a reelection account that he rolled over into his presidential campaign, and he promptly announced a $6 million ad buy in Iowa and New Hampshire.


In a sign of how he sees the contest – and how Scott likely helps siphon votes from DeSantis – Trump welcomed Scott to the race. He didn’t do the same for DeSantis, who’s seen by Trump’s MAGA Inc. super PAC as the only credible threat to the president right now. It has spent about $15 million on ads savaging DeSantis – before he even got in the race.

DeSantis’s super PAC, Never Back Down, isn’t disclosing its expenditures currently but has probably spent as much as $20 million on ads, mailers and organizing efforts, according to MAGA Inc.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) announces his run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination at a campaign event on May 22, 2023 in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) announces his presidential run on May 22, 2023 in North Charleston, South Carolina. (Allison Joyce/Getty Images)Allison Joyce/Getty Images

Jeff Roe, a senior adviser to Never Back Down, said DeSantis will draw contrasts with Trump where necessary, but the governor shouldn’t obsess about him and should run on his own record.

"The Republican primary electorate is larger than just one specific movement and includes the entire party,” Roe said. “Ron DeSantis is the only person who can run to lead the party and a movement, not just lead a movement like Trump did. Being the party leader is how you win a primary."

But Tony Fabrizio, pollster for MAGA Inc., said the calculations of DeSantis’ team have been wrong for months, so he doesn’t believe it will change dramatically going forward.

“Their whole theory of the case was: Ron wins big in November. Trump gets in trouble. Ron does his book tour. Ron has the most successful session in state history. And by the end of that, Ron is the golden child, the standard-bearer or whatever,” Fabrizio said. “But look what happened: He went backward.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate for Florida Ron DeSantis speaks during an election night watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, on November 8, 2022.
Republican gubernatorial candidate for Florida Ron DeSantis speaks during an election night watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, on November 8, 2022. - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been tipped as a possible 2024 presidential candidate, was projected as one of the early winners of the night in Tuesday's midterm election. (Photo by Giorgio VIERA / AFP) (Photo by GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images
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