In Shaky Start, Ron DeSantis Joins 2024 Race, Hoping to Topple Trump

“Elon’s got to staff up a little more to boost that server capacity,” said Brandon Rosner, a donor from Milwaukee. He was not discouraged. “Once we got through the original glitch there, I think people were very excited,” he said.

Mr. DeSantis is confronting the daunting endeavor of toppling a former president whose belligerence and loyal base of support have discouraged most leading Republicans from making frontal attacks against him. Mr. Trump, who has a mounting list of legal troubles, clearly sees Mr. DeSantis as a political threat and has unloaded on him for months, mocking him as “Ron DeSanctimonious” and slamming his stewardship of Florida.

“Trump is not as invincible as he once seemed and DeSantis is a serious contender,” said Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican strategist. “There are Republican voters looking for someone who can move beyond Trump, someone who can fight the liberals but also win elections. That’s the space DeSantis is trying to inhabit.”

Mr. DeSantis’s chances of capturing the nomination may depend on whether the Republican primary becomes a crowded, Trump-dominated food fight — something similar to what unfolded in 2016 — or if he can turn the contest into a two-man race. The Republican field has slowly ballooned, with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina announcing a bid this week and Vice President Mike Pence expected to join soon.

To winnow the field back down, Mr. DeSantis is likely to need strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two nominating states, with anti-Trump voters coalescing around him. His advisers and allies see a victory in socially conservative Iowa as a must, and believe he needs to follow with at least a close second-place finish in more moderate New Hampshire.

Mr. DeSantis has the financial ammunition to compete: He is likely to start with more money in an outside group than any Republican primary candidate in history. He has more than $80 million expected to be transferred from his state account to his super PAC, which says it has also raised $40 million, in addition to having tens of millions more in donor commitments, according to people familiar with the fund-raising.

A key focus of the primary, and the general election should Mr. DeSantis make it that far, will be his record as governor. He and a pliant Florida Legislature have passed contentious laws that have excited the right and angered many Democrats, including Black and L.G.B.T.Q. people, students and abortion-rights supporters in Florida. The bills seem to reflect Mr. DeSantis’s plan to run to the right of Mr. Trump in the primary, which could leave him vulnerable with moderates and independents.

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