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DeSantis to launch presidential campaign May 24, sources say

Sources: DeSantis expected to announce 2024 bid
DeSantis expected to announce presidential bid next week, sources say 02:14

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to formally announce in a "virtual" way on May 24 that he is running for president, as donors and fundraisers gather in Miami to make calls and fundraise for his campaign, according to three sources familiar with the planning.

He plans to file papers with the Federal Election Commission to officially establish his presidential candidacy. The Miami gathering, which includes some of the governor's most generous longtime donors, are expected to receive briefings on campaign strategy and requests to help raise significant sums of cash for his bid, three people familiar with the plans said.

A more formal kickoff event is expected to be held closer to June 1, according to those familiar with his plans. It is likely to occur in DeSantis's hometown of Dunedin, Fla., sources familiar with the plans said. 

A DeSantis spokesman declined to comment on the timing for an announcement. The news on a launch next week was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

A senior official with DeSantis' political operation said the staffers have been fielding "unprecedented interest and support for his candidacy," and claimed they could potentially have the "biggest bundler operation in Republican presidential primary history." A bundler is a fundraiser who solicits donations on behalf of a campaign.

The official also highlighted DeSantis' state legislative endorsements from Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida, and the strength of the political operation, touting that last weekend in Iowa, the DeSantis team "made a call to reroute to Des Moines with 90 minutes notice and produced a crowd of almost 200 people." The official added that the same task would take the Nikki Haley campaign, Senator Tim Scott's expected campaign and others "many days, if not weeks, to assemble."

On Monday, his political operation moved out of the state GOP headquarters to a new office in Tallahassee, a move that cost more than $5,000, and triggered a federal campaign law requiring DeSantis to register as a candidate and designate a principal campaign committee within 15 days.

Asked in Sarasota, Fla., Monday if he'd announce a run within the next 15 days, DeSantis noted he had "a couple more things left on the [legislative] agenda," including the state budget. 

DeSantis' entry in the 2024 presidential race comes after months of visits to early presidential primary states and across the country to promote his new book and tout his legislative record as governor. DeSantis was in Iowa for multiple events this past weekend. 

He is currently serving his second term as Florida governor after he was reelected by a nearly 20-point margin in November 2022. In the state's latest legislative term, which ended in May, DeSantis signed a succession of bills popular with conservatives, including a six-week abortion ban and one that established permitless concealed firearm carry. On the road, he's also been  highlighting bipartisan bills that would increase teacher pay, lower prescription drug prices and cut taxes for home goods. 

He cruised through the GOP primary for governor in 2018 after he was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and won the general election by 32,463 votes.

DeSantis served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2012 to 2018 and was a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. After graduating from Yale and then Harvard Law, DeSantis served in the Navy as a JAG officer and was deployed to Iraq. 

His prominence in the Republican party rose with his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when he lifted lockdowns on businesses and in-person schooling sooner than other states. His "Parental Rights in Education" bill, which prohibits instruction about sexual orientation and gender studies up to the 3rd grade has also resulted in a high-profile fight with the Disney Corporation after its former CEO voiced his opposition to the legislation. That prohibition has since been extended to the 8th grade and under. 

DeSantis has proven to be a prolific fundraiser — his state political committee, "Friends of Ron DeSantis," has received $225.8 million in donations since launching in January 2018. He has also raised more than $4.3 million for Republican organizations in 10 different speaking engagements since March, according to his political team. 

A super PAC supporting DeSantis, "Never Back Down," launched earlier this year and has already raised over $30 million. 

The "Friends of Ron DeSantis" state committee has more than $85.7 million cash on hand that may be transferred to a PAC, but not directly to DeSantis' campaign. The governor officially disassociated himself from that committee earlier in May. 

So far, he has consistently placed second to Trump in early 2024 presidential polls, but has maintained a double-digit lead over other potential Republican challengers. Trump announced his third bid for the presidency in November 2022. 

A CBS News poll from late April showed 58% of likely Republican voters would support Trump in a primary, while 22% picked DeSantis. Former Vice President Mike Pence and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy tied for a distant third, with 5% a piece. 

In recent months, top GOP donors have been reluctant to publicly support a DeSantis bid, spooked because of the six-week abortion ban he signed in Florida and his characterization of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a "territorial dispute." Congressional Republicans also criticized his Ukraine comment, which he has since said was "mischaracterized," and added criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he called a "war criminal."

Trump has consistently targeted DeSantis at campaign events and on social media, and his PAC, "MAGA Inc.", has run ads slamming him for votes he took as a congressman on Social Security and Medicare reform. 

DeSantis has declined to confront Trump by name, but after an interview with The Messenger, in which Trump criticized Florida's six-week abortion ban and said "many people within the pro-life movement feel that that was too harsh," DeSantis offered one of his more direct responses. 

"And I think that as a Florida resident, you know, he didn't give an answer about, 'Would you have signed the heartbeat bill that Florida did?'" he said Tuesday. "I signed the bill. I was proud to do it. He will not answer whether he would sign it or not."

DeSantis has also often talked about how the Republican party has to shake its "culture of losing" in recent elections, including in 2020 when Trump lost to President Joe Biden. 

"I didn't see a red wave across this country [in 2022] and so I think the party has developed a culture of losing. I think that there's not accountability. And I think in Florida, we really show what it takes to not just win, [but] win big and then deliver big," he said Monday. 

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