Ron DeSantis has begun his bid to become the Republican candidate for US president by claiming he is America’s saviour and calling some of frontrunner Donald Trump’s criticisms “ridiculous”.
His key rival for the GOP nomination is former president Mr Trump, who has a big lead in opinion polls and an unbreakable grip on the party, according to some commentators.
At his first event as a candidate, Mr DeSantis, 44, told around 500 people at an evangelical Christian church in Iowa on Tuesday the US is “going in the wrong direction. We can see it and we can feel it.”
His clearest criticisms of the frontrunner came when speaking to reporters afterwards.
Promising to “fight back” against the former president, he rubbished Mr Trump’s suggestion that New York’s pandemic response was better than Florida’s, calling it “detached from reality.
“That criticism is ridiculous. But it is an indication that the former president would double down on his lockdowns.
“When we disagreed [while Mr Trump was president], I never bashed him publicly because he was taking all this incoming from the media, the left, and even some Republicans.
“And the whole collusion was a total farce. And he was treated very, very poorly. And that bothered me, and it still bothers me to be honest.
“So, I never really would air those disagreements. Well, now he’s attacking me over some of these disagreements, but I think he’s doing it in a way that the voters are going to side with me.”
The governor’s appearance came six days after a stumbling online announcement to launch his bid.
Mr DeSantis becomes the latest in a crowded Republican contest to decide whether the party will move on from Trump in 2024 as it aims to retake the White House from Democrat Joe Biden.
Sometimes described as “Trump without the chaos”, Mr DeSantis has nicknamed Florida “the place where woke
goes to die” and taken on the Disney Corporation after it opposed a state law banning classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early years.
Mr DeSantis’ campaign funds could increase by up to $80m (£64,724m) after a department in his own administration changed state rules, NBC said.
A state-level political committee Mr DeSantis led for the past five years, known as Friends of Ron DeSantis, is widely expected to transfer the sum to a federal super PAC called Never Back Down backing his bid for president.
The change overturns at least five years of state election rules, NBC said.