After months of buildup and speculation, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is officially entering the 2024 White House race.
Sources familiar confirmed to Fox News that the popular, conservative two-term governor will declare that he's candidate for president, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET during a conversation with Elon Musk on Twitter.
Along with his announcement, DeSantis is expected to file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, which officially launches his GOP presidential campaign.
Even though he's been on the 2024 sidelines, DeSantis for months has been in the top tier of Republican nomination contenders, behind former President Donald Trump and ahead of the rest of the field of actual and likely candidates in nearly every GOP primary poll.
The announcement by DeSantis coincides with his meeting this week in Miami with top financial backers.
File: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters on March 10, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A formal campaign kickoff event will likely take place sometime after this week's donor gathering, but no details have been shared by the campaign.
The blockbuster move by the two-term Florida governor now turns the battle for Republican nomination into an apparent two-person fistfight between DeSantis and Trump.
DeSantis, who at age 44 is more than three decades years younger than Trump, won his first election as governor in 2018 thanks to a major assist from the then-president. But he became a force of his own as he’s built a political brand that stretches from coast to coast. The governor saw his popularity soar among conservatives across the country the past three years, courtesy of his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a culture warrior going after media, corporations, and school unions.
DeSantis routinely dismissed talk of a 2024 White House race last year, as he focused on his gubernatorial re-election. But he began dropping hints of a possible presidential bid, starting with his re-election victory speech in November after he cruised to an historic 19-point win in Florida, a onetime battleground state. And he reiterated in speeches his pledge that "we’ve got a lot more to do, and I have only begun to fight."
DeSantis, who served in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps before being elected to Congress, has showcased that his wins as governor have "transformed" Florida from a top general election battleground "into the nation’s leading red state," and that his policy victories in Florida can serve as a roadmap for the entire nation.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks with customers at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire, on May 19, 2023. The iconic diner has long been a must stop for actual or potential White House hopefuls. (Paul Steinhauser/Fox News)
The governor racked up a slew of conservative policy victories - including a controversial six-week abortion ban, tougher immigration laws, restrictions on gender and diversity instruction in schools, and green-lighting the ability to carry a concealed weapon without a permit - during Florida's just concluded legislative session, courtesy of a GOP super majority in Tallahassee.
DeSantis has traveled across the country in recent months, highlighting his "Florida blueprint" and promoting his newly released book, "The Courage to Be Free."
Writing a book is a rite of passage for many potential and actual presidential candidates. And his travels have taken him multiple times to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, the first three states to vote in the GOP presidential nominating calendar.
DeSantis has made a series of moves in recent weeks indicating that a campaign launch would be imminent.
Among them was the move Monday by DeSantis’ political team from the Republican Party of Florida headquarters — where it has been housed following last November’s gubernatorial election — to new offices.
Additionally, a further signal was the move by the governor to sever ties with Friends of Ron DeSantis, his longtime political state committee, in order to comply with federal campaign finance regulations.
File: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Mason, Madison, Casey DeSantis and Mamie wave to the crowd during an inauguration ceremony at the historic Florida Capitol on Jan. 3, 2023, in Tallahassee, Florida. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service v
DeSantis enters the 2024 race in a relatively strong position. He's firmly in second place, far ahead of the rest of the field of actual and potential Republican White House contenders, but his poll numbers have slipped since earlier this year in relation to Trump.
But when it comes to fundraising, he’s sitting on a massive war chest he built during last year’s gubernatorial re-election campaign. DeSantis set a gubernatorial fundraising record in the 2022 cycle, and had $110 million cash on hand in his fundraising committees at the start of the spring. Much of that money could likely be transferred to Never Back Down, a super PAC backing DeSantis's White House bid.
"Gov. DeSantis has earned his place atop the Republican presidential primary field," longtime Republican strategist Colin Reed noted. "DeSantis has a great story to tell, a great record to run on, and a young, telegenic family."
Reed, a veteran of presidential and Senate campaigns, emphasized that "in terms of name ID, in terms of ability to raise money, in terms of his ability to get on any TV show he wants, he’s got all that. He didn’t need to get into the race any earlier."
But because of his powerful position, DeSantis has a large target on his back. And Trump, who’s known for pummeling his political rivals, didn’t wait for the governor to declare his candidacy.
Trump started targeting DeSantis last autumn, nicknaming him "Ron DeSanctimonious." And early this year the former president charged that the governor was a "RINO GLOBALIST," and began referring to him as "DeSanctus."
Pointing to his support for DeSantis in 2018, Trump argued that if the governor joined him in the 2024 Republican nomination race, "I do think it would be a great act of disloyalty because, you know, I got him in. He had no chance. His political life was over."
DeSantis has mostly ignored Trump’s verbal attacks, although he’s occasionally responded. When Trump suggested earlier this year — without offering any proof — that DeSantis was "grooming high school girls with alcohol" during his tenure years earlier as a teacher, the governor said "I don't spend my time trying to smear other Republicans."
Alluding to those attacks from Trump, Reed said for DeSantis "now comes the biggest challenge and that is his ability to take a punch on the national stage."
"The former president’s already been swinging at him and he’s been able to stay out of the fray by virtue of not being a candidate," he added. "Now he’s got to get in there and go toe to toe with a guy who throws haymakers like no other. And that’s going to be his biggest test."
DeSantis joins a field that besides Trump also includes Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations and former two-term South Carolina governor, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, a rising star in the GOP and fierce fundraiser who just declared his candidacy, and former two-term Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Also vying for the nomnation are multi-millionaire entrepreneur, best-selling author and conservative commentator Vivek Ramaswamy, Michigan businessman and 2022 gubernatorial candidate Perry Johnson and conservative radio talk show host and former California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder.
The field will likely also include former Vice President Mike Pence, who's expected to launch a campaign in the coming weeks.
Govs. Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire are seriously mulling presidential bids, with announcements likely in the coming weeks, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expected to announce in the coming days whether he'll launch a second GOP presidential campaign. Former Reps. Will Hurd of Texas and Mike Rogers of Michigan may also launch 2024 campaigns.