Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis plunged into his first full day of campaigning for the presidency Thursday after his Twitter launch the night before, conducting a series of interviews with friendly conservative commentators and announcing in-person events in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina below. week.
For DeSantis, the immediate challenge appeared to be moving past the rocky start and appealing to a mainstream Republican audience, following a Twitter spat with billionaire Elon Musk that often veered into right-wing complaints online and away from issues voters say they care about. they care about the majority, like the economy.
Acknowledging that a “very small percentage” of Republican primary voters were on Twitter, DeSantis defended his decision to advertise his campaign on the social media platform.
“We felt like there would be a lot of fuss about it,” he told conservative radio host Erick Erickson on Thursday afternoon. “And I think that was probably the biggest story in the world yesterday. And hopefully we’ll get some people interested in our campaign who otherwise wouldn’t be.”
Mr. DeSantis also tried to draw attention back to his looming showdown with former President Donald J. Trump, whose devoted supporters are one of the biggest obstacles to the governor’s candidacy. As his media blitz began, DeSantis took a series of jabs at Trump, noting how often the former president attacked him.
“I think a lot of what he’s doing is showing everybody that he understands that I have a good chance of beating him, because now he’s not criticizing anybody else,” DeSantis told a New Hampshire radio station. “It’s just me.”
The Trump team “wouldn’t do that if they didn’t think I had a chance,” added DeSantis, who argued that he had a better chance of winning independent voters. Later that day, he kept up the pressure, saying that Trump was “running to the left” and that the former president “was a different guy today than when he ran in 2015 and 2016.”
At the same time, DeSantis suggested on “The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show” that, if elected, he might consider pardoning Trump if he faces federal charges, along with many others, including those charged in connection with the Jan. 6 of 2021, assault on the Capitol.
“On the 1st, I will have people who will come together and analyze all these cases, who are the people who are the victims of the use of weapons or political attacks, and we will be aggressive in granting pardons,” he said, responding to a question about the 1st of January. 6 pardons, but also citing other cases that he claimed represented the “weaponization” of federal law enforcement.
“Some of these cases, some people may have a technical violation of the law, but if there are three other people who did the same thing but only in a context like BLM and they don’t get prosecuted at all, that’s uneven enforcement. of justice,” she added, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement. “So we’re going to find ways that that doesn’t happen, and then we’re going to use the power of forgiveness.”
Asked directly if his review could include Trump himself, DeSantis said, “I would say that any example of unfavorable treatment based on politics or gun use would be included in that review, no matter how small or large.”
The governor had avoided mentioning Trump during his launch on Wednesday, a delayed Twitter Spaces livestream event featuring Musk, the platform’s owner, that was plagued by technical glitches, leading to a vacuum and an intermittently hot microphone.
One of the people who heard the Twitter announcement was Trump himself, at least for a while.
“I tried for the first half hour,” Trump said as he moved to the seventh tee at his golf course outside Washington. “After that, everyone turned it off.”
Trump bragged about the launch, calling it a “disaster” and saying, “I don’t know if it’s recoverable.”
“He’s very unfair, but he has no personality,” Trump said of DeSantis. “And if you don’t have personality, politics is a very tough business.”
Asked if he would debate with DeSantis, Trump replied: “Unless he gets close, why would anyone debate?”
The next step for Mr. DeSantis is a return to a more traditional campaign, with stops planned in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first three nominated states, from May 30 to June 2. The campaign invoices this four-day tour in 12 cities. and cities as the first leg of his “Great American Comeback Tour.”
Mr. DeSantis will kick off his first in-person campaign event in Des Moines on Tuesday. He will remain in Iowa on Wednesday before traveling to New Hampshire on Thursday and South Carolina on Friday.
“Our campaign is committed to putting in the time to win these first nominee states,” Generra Peck, Mr. DeSantis’s campaign manager, said in a statement.
Campaigning in a presidential primary, especially early on, is often a shake-and-smile affair.
You will be closely watching how Mr. DeSantis interacts with people on the ride. He has had some awkward moments as he has met voters on the road, drawing derision from Trump and other detractors.
Mr. DeSantis is expected to need a win in Iowa and at least a close second in New Hampshire to show he can effectively challenge the former president, especially when other candidates, who might feel a political opening for a run, jump on the ballot. candidacy. the race.
On Thursday night, DeSantis will attend a reception with major donors at a Miami hotel as his team ramps up their fundraising efforts. Despite the Twitter mishap, his campaign said it had raised more than $1 million online during its first hour Wednesday night.
Mr. DeSantis’s team had gathered donors in a conference room at the Four Seasons Miami, in the city’s financial district, to listen to Twitter Space.
It didn’t go well at first, according to two attendees. The hotel’s audiovisual system was as faulty as the live feed, causing donors to try to listen on their phones while having drinks at the bar and chatting with each other. But the general mood was one of enthusiasm, people said.
On Thursday, top staff members of Mr. DeSantis’s campaign told donors, or “investors,” based on their name tags, that they thought the night had been a success, even if it didn’t go according to their plan. Original screenplay. The campaign has signaled that it wants to move quickly, take risks and confuse its skeptics.
Still, the decision to make the announcement on Twitter, a platform DeSantis said Thursday he didn’t use, and to talk more about things like diversity programs at public universities than, say, inflation, flummoxed many Republicans. .
“He was attracting 0.2 percent of likely Republican voters with that type of ad,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “His strategy of him is in a different dimension than anything I’ve understood in the past.”
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