As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis formally launched his widely expected presidential campaign on Wednesday, he was met by attacks of varying degrees from some of his rivals for the Republican nomination.
While frontrunner Donald Trump has been loudly attacking DeSantis for months, it was former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who responded the most forcefully among the rest of the field, releasing a video mocking the Florida governor as a Trump copycat who mirrored the former President’s mannerisms and policy preferences.
“America deserves a choice, not an echo,” the ad said.
Haley’s attack, which began Tuesday evening with a memo from her campaign to allies calling DeSantis “Trump without the charm,” was likely a preview of what’s coming from current and would-be candidates who hope to wound DeSantis as they all jockey for the role of chief Trump rival.
Several campaigns said little publicly about DeSantis on Wednesday. But among campaign strategists who spoke to TIME, none were hesitant to point out what they saw as deficiencies in the Florida governor’s conservative credentials and leadership style.
DeSantis formally filed as a presidential candidate with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, and released a launch video on Twitter before participating in a glitchy livestreamed interview on Twitter with Elon Musk, the platform’s owner.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who rolled out a slate of New Hampshire endorsements, acknowledged the entrance of a new challenger, while gently dinging him as well.
“Competition breeds strength,” he wrote in a tweet welcoming the governor to the race, along with a Fox News appearance highlighting his policy differences with DeSantis. In a different tweet, the entrepreneur suggested DeSantis may be supportive of the recent government bailout of Silicon Valley Bank.
“Since his megadonor [David Sacks] was the most vocal supporter of that bailout [and] he’s moderating the Twitter Spaces with Ron tonight, he should ask,” Ramaswamy wrote. “A legitimate policy question for a Presidential candidate.”
After the technical difficulties of DeSantis’ much-hyped Twitter Spaces livestream, Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social, “The DeSanctus TWITTER launch is a DISASTER! His whole campaign will be a disaster. WATCH!” Other 2024 rivals also mocked DeSantis for the livestream glitches. President Joe Biden tweeted “This link works” with a link to a page to donate to his campaign. Republican Asa Hutchinson, a former Arkansas Governor who recently launched a 2024 campaign, tweeted a similar joke with a donation link.
Even before the glitchy livestream, Trump had attacked DeSantis on Wednesday, using Truth Social to say, “Ron DeSanctus can’t win the General Election (or get the Nomination)” because of various votes he took while in Congress, including his support for a national sales tax. “He was, and is, a disciple of horrible RINO Paul Ryan, and others too many to mention,” Trump wrote. “Also, he desperately needs a personality transplant and, to the best of my knowledge, they are not medically available yet. A disloyal person!”
Haley is currently campaigning across Iowa and New Hampshire and is scheduled to participate in a CNN town hall next month. Other candidates are also focusing on their own campaigns across the early states, with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina formally launching his own bid earlier this week in his home state before another trip to Iowa.
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