Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raked in $8.2 million in donations in the first 24 hours of his official presidential bid, his campaign said – a record-setting number that belies the governor’s strengths heading into a fight with front-runner Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.
The first-day sum is more than any other non-incumbent candidate, beating out President Joe Biden’s $6.3 million haul in the first day of his candidacy in 2019.
The donation sum includes contributions from individuals via online fundraising as well as funds collected as part of an event Thursday that saw top DeSantis donors gathered in Miami making calls and soliciting donations from other potential funders – an event dubbed “Ron-O-Rama.”
Though DeSantis has run a de facto campaign for months, he officially filed paperwork for a bid on Wednesday before announcing his candidacy that night in a glitch-filled audio conversation on Twitter with Twitter CEO Elon Musk. But the widely mocked snafus during his launch event seem not to have dampened donors’ enthusiasm.
The fundraising figure does come with an asterisk, however: Officials from the governor’s administration – not the campaign – are pressuring state lobbyists to donate to DeSantis’ bid, including those with business actively before the government, according to a report by NBC News. The practice raises a number of legal and ethical questions.
DeSantis is set to kick off his campaign with a three-state, multi-city tour next week, starting in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday.
On Thursday, he went on a radio and press blitz that saw the governor take more pointed shots at Trump than he has thus far during the primary season, painting Trump as having drifted to the left on several issues.
“He’s going left on a lot of the fiscal, he’s going left on a lot of the culture,” DeSantis said about Trump during one radio appearance Thursday. “He’s even sided with Disney against me. I stood up to Disney because I opposed the sexualization of our children.”
Disney, which is one of Florida’s largest employers, is suing DeSantis for what they say was unconstitutional and retaliatory political action taken against the company by DeSantis after Disney criticized DeSantis’ hard-line policies on LBGTQ+ and education issues. DeSantis has been slammed by other Republicans for his actions against the company following that criticism, which included the state takeover of a board that governed the district where Disney World is located.
“I don’t know what happened to Donald Trump. This is a different guy today than when he was running in 2015 and 2016, and I think the direction he is going with his campaign is the wrong direction,” DeSantis said.
Trump, meanwhile, has spent the last several months attacking DeSantis for the same, frequently labeling him a RINO, or “Republican in name only” – an insult conservatives dish out to those they think are not far enough right.