In a radio interview on Thursday with conservative commentator Erick Erickson, DeSantis said the livestream of the event had now drawn more than five million listeners and that it had succeeded in creating “buzz” around his candidacy.
“I think it was the biggest story in the world yesterday, and so hopefully, we’ll get some people interested in our campaign who may not have been otherwise,” DeSantis said.
His campaign said he raised US$1 million within an hour of his presidential announcement, and US$8.2 million in the 24 hours after his campaign launch. DeSantis spent much of Thursday doing interviews with media in the early voting states.
As governor, DeSantis has signed a number of state bills targeting reproductive rights and teachers unions and imposing restrictions on immigrants lacking permanent legal status, LGBTQ expression, diversity and equity programs in schools, and pension funds considering environmental, social and governance (ESG) provisions in their investment decisions.
His entrance into the Republican contest sets up a showdown with Trump, his one-time ally, who lost the 2020 presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden. Polls show Trump with a commanding lead over DeSantis.
In a telephone discussion with conservative media on Wednesday, DeSantis took some of his strongest shots at Trump to date, suggesting that Trump helped balloon the federal budget deficit while he was president and supported legislation in 2018 that DeSantis says would have provided “amnesty” to immigrants who cross the border unauthorised.
In a later TV interview on the conservative Newsmax network, DeSantis said he was more electable than Trump in a general election. “I do believe that there’s a limit to the number of voters that would consider the former president at this point. I think my ceiling is higher in a general election,” DeSantis said.
Trump and others were quick to pounce on DeSantis’ missteps.
On his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump called the launch a “disaster” and “fatal”.
Biden’s campaign also took a swipe with an email titled “This Link Works”, providing a link for online donations to the Democrat’s re-election effort.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, another 2024 Republican candidate who was Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, issued a campaign ad that took a swipe at both rivals, mocking DeSantis as a “pit bull defender” of the former president.
“America deserves a choice not an echo,” it said.