(NewsNation) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is getting closer to officially jumping into the 2024 Republican presidential primary race.
He has decided to skip the preliminary step of setting up an exploratory committee and is planning to instead directly launch his campaign, two sources familiar with the planning told NewsNation. One of those sources said an announcement around Memorial Day later this month is being considered.
“I may have something to say about the overall landscape about ’24. Stay tuned on that,” he said Wednesday as he signed a major immigration bill toughening enforcement, budgeting $12 million for transporting migrants to other states and imposing penalties on businesses that hire undocumented immigrants.
Since DeSantis and his team have been privately thinking about a potential race for some time, they do not believe there is a need to spend time on an exploratory phase. They say doing so could raise questions about why they did not just jump into the race.
DeSantis has repeatedly said he would make his next moves after the Florida legislature ended its session, which occurred last week. The legislature passed a series of bills enacting a controversial six-week abortion ban, allowing concealed firearms to be carried without a permit and revoking the development autonomy the Disney Corporation had over Disney World.
While traveling around the country, he emphasized those bills as he touted his conservative credentials.
“This is another great victory for this most recent legislative session, but stay tuned. We have a lot more coming down the pike in the days ahead,” DeSantis said Wednesday as he signed the immigration measure.
The governor has seen his popularity among Republican voters nationwide decline in recent months. Analysts point to the governor’s controversial abortion and Disney actions as key contributors.
In a variety of preference polls in April gauging support for the Republican nomination, former President Donald Trump led DeSantis by margins of between 24 and 36 points.
“The DeSantis moves on Disney have caused every CEO in America to question his real commitment to the free enterprise system,” said Republican consultant Scott Reed, who managed Sen. Robert Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign.
Another fact Republican political observers cite is Trump increasing his attacks on DeSantis recently — ones that the governor has mostly decided not to respond to. Some of his supporters have urged him to be more aggressive in countering those attacks, a source with knowledge of the discussions told NewsNation. DeSantis was earlier urged to actually enter the campaign sooner so he could counter Trump, NewsNation was told.
“The Trump campaign is firing on all cylinders and running circles around the DeSantis team. If DeSantis doesn’t find a way to gain traction soon, the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination may be over before it ever really started,” Republican consultant Ford O’Connell, who is currently not backing any of the contenders, said.
In recent weeks, DeSantis has increased planning and activities as he prepares to enter the fray. He hosted dinners in the state capital of Tallahassee for financial backers last week and this week, and he has hired staff to prepare for the campaign’s launch.
He is also stepping up his political travel to key battleground states. Last weekend, he went to northern Wisconsin, a key Midwestern bellwether, and this weekend both he and former President Donald Trump will speak in the crucial early-voting state of Iowa. Next month, he has events scheduled in North Carolina and Nevada.
“We are proud of all we’ve accomplished in the state of Florida, but I can tell you this: I have only begun to fight,” DeSantis said last weekend during a Lincoln Day dinner in Rothschild, Wisconsin.
DeSantis traveled throughout the spring as well. He helped various state and local Republican groups raise over $4 million dollars by attending 10 events, his political team confirmed. Fox News originally reported the fundraising haul. Such appearances are key for potential candidates as they seek to build a network of support across the nation.
Several big-name donors who were believed to be ready to support DeSantis have made it known they are holding off on backing him right now. Key Republican donor Steve Schwarzman, chief executive officer of the Blackstone Group, has decided to hold off on donating money to DeSantis after the two recently met, Bloomberg News reported this week. After the meeting, Schwarzman was not convinced DeSantis will be successful, according to sources who talked to Bloomberg.