washington - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared his candidacy for the 2024 U.S. Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday in a Federal Election Commission filing.
DeSantis was scheduled to hold an online conversation with Twitter owner Elon Musk later Wednesday.
DeSantis' campaign had said his long-anticipated announcement would come on the Twitter Spaces social media site, where those joining in can participate in audio conversations. It will be moderated by tech entrepreneur David Sacks.
The 44-year-old DeSantis immediately becomes the main challenger to former President Donald Trump for the nomination. National polls show DeSantis trailing far behind Trump but also well ahead of several other Republican hopefuls looking to oust Democratic President Joe Biden in the election 18 months from now.
DeSantis served six years in the U.S. House of Representatives before narrowly winning the Florida governorship in 2018 and then cruising to reelection last year.
DeSantis has toured several political battleground states in advance of the official announcement of his presidential candidacy, speaking at Republican gatherings and hoping for early support in what promises to be a protracted and contentious contest for the party's presidential nomination.
Privately, he recently told one group of potential campaign donors that he believes only three candidates have a chance to win the U.S. presidency next year: Biden, Trump and himself, and that he believes he has a better chance of defeating Biden than Trump.
For months, Trump has attacked DeSantis, lately in television ads, calling him "DeSanctimonious," and assailing him as disloyal after Trump endorsed his 2018 run for the Florida governorship.
DeSantis' supporters have portrayed him politically as a like-minded Trump but without the accompanying drama and chaos that characterized much of the Trump presidency, or the criminal investigations that Trump is facing related to his attempt to upend his 2020 reelection loss, and his retention of classified documents as he left office in early 2021.
DeSantis, a staunch conservative, pushed major pieces of right-wing legislation through the recent session of the Florida state legislature, including a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant; authorization to carry a concealed weapon without a permit; eliminating the need for a unanimous verdict to impose the death penalty; and expanding a measure to block Florida investments based on environmental, social and governance considerations.
DeSantis continues to wage a fight against Florida's biggest employer, the Disney World entertainment conglomerate, because of the company's outspoken political views supporting gender rights, to which DeSantis objects.
Several other Republicans are also seeking the party's presidential nomination, including Tim Scott, the U.S. Senate's lone Black Republican; former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, appointed by Trump as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
Former Vice President Mike Pence is weighing entering the 2024 Republican nomination contest, as are former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, and others.