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DeSantis to campaign in early voting states after chaotic presidential launch


By Doina Chiacu and James Oliphant

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ fledgling presidential campaign was looking to push forward on Thursday after a troubled online launch event drew mockery from his rivals and renewed doubts about his viability as a national candidate.

DeSantis plans to barnstorm the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina next week in his first series of public events since joining the 2024 race for the Republican nomination on Wednesday.

The Florida governor will make speeches and conduct fireside chats in a four-day swing across 12 cities and towns from May 30 to June 2, beginning in Iowa and ending in South Carolina, his campaign said.

“Our campaign is committed to putting in the time to win these early nominating states,” said campaign manager Generra Peck. “No one will work harder than Governor DeSantis to share his vision with the country — he has only begun to fight.”

In the meantime, his campaign was working to try and put his glitch-marred launch event with Elon Musk on Twitter in the best light possible. The much-hyped forum featuring Musk, Twitter’s owner, and others was beset with audio and connection woes.

DeSantis joked in a fundraising pitch later in the evening that he “broke the internet.” His campaign said he raised $1 million within an hour of his presidential announcement.

He spent the rest of the evening giving interviews to friendly conservative media outlets, outlining his vision for his campaign.

Another round was planned for Thursday, including with conservative commentator Erick Erickson, who posted after the launch event that DeSantis had made a “mistake” in trusting Musk and his Twitter platform but that it was “recoverable.”

DeSantis’ entrance into the Republican contest sets up a showdown with his one-time ally, former President Donald Trump, who lost the 2020 presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.

Polls continue to 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 president and supported legislation in 2018 that he says would have provided “amnesty” to immigrants in the country illegally.

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.

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, another 2024 Republican candidate who was Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, issued a campaign ad on Wednesday 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.

DeSantis’ campaign will hold a “kickoff” event on May 30 in Iowa, a state that may be critical to his presidential hopes. Its sizeable evangelical voting bloc at times has been cool on Trump, helping to hand him a defeat in 2016 in party caucuses.

DeSantis is seeking to present himself as a get-it-done executive who broke with the federal government over COVID-19 policies and pushed back against progressive ideology.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and James Oliphant; Editing by Ross Colvin, Chizu Nomiyama)

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