Ron DeSantis will launch presidential campaign mid-May, operatives say
Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R) will make his presidential candidacy official as early as mid-May, four operatives close to his decision-making told NBC News this week.
According to one source, DeSantis plans to form his exploratory committee around the time the Florida legislative session is expected to end, which is May 5.
Other sources added that DeSantis is expected to make his candidacy official sooner rather than later, because he is perceived to be losing ground against former President Donald Trump. Some backers are urging him to wait longer and gather more support, however.
Trump has risen slightly in polls since his indictment earlier in the month, while DeSantis has slightly dropped. A recent Wall Street Journal poll had Trump at 53% and DeSantis at 38%.
"I'm not a candidate"
More concerning, Trump has begun to rack up endorsements from lawmakers and state officials, including in Florida where DeSantis could reasonably be expected to get a lot of support.
More than 20 Florida lawmakers and officials have endorsed Trump, while few have endorsed DeSantis.
In addressing this trend, however, DeSantis said he wouldn't expect a lot of endorsements at this point because he's not in the race officially yet.
“I’m not a candidate, so we’ll see if and when that changes,” he said during a visit to Japan.
DeSantis has been the underdog before, such as in 2018 when he narrowly defeated Andrew Gillum to become the governor.
Trump likes to point out that it was his endorsement that got DeSantis over the hump in that race, and he may be right. But that was in 2018, when Trump's popularity was much higher and his endorsements got many state officials and Congress members elected.
It's worth noting that a good number of candidates in close races that were endorsed by Trump in 2022 did not win their races, so Trump's endorsement may not have the power it once did.
DeSantis backers are hoping that he will get a big surge when he announces his official candidacy, that people are tiring of Trump's rough personality and the many investigations into his conduct.
Trump a polarizing figure
It's clear that a majority of the Republican base supports Trump, but it's equally clear that many outside the base, including independent swing voters that often decide elections, dislike him as strongly as his supporters love him.
While DeSantis seems to have less baggage than Trump, it's become clear that Democrats will gin up as much hate as possible against any Republican candidate who dares to run against them.