DeSantis campaign brings in $20m in donations, trailing Trump

Trump remains the leader in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, despite ongoing legal battles.

Ron DeSantis, walking with supporters and his wife Casey outside, flashes a thumbs up.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been on the campaign trail for six weeks, touring pivotal states like Iowa and New Hampshire, seen here on July 4 [File: Brian Snyder/Reuters]

The United States presidential campaign of Republican Ron DeSantis has pulled in an estimated $20m in fundraising since the Florida governor launched his bid in late May.

The disclosure comes as candidates in the 2024 race file their financial disclosures for the second quarter of the year with the Federal Election Commission.

DeSantis’s $20m haul falls short of the estimated $35m that his Republican rival, former President Donald Trump, reportedly raised in the same quarter.

But it is nevertheless a sizable sum for the Florida governor, who has had to contend with a glitch-filled campaign launch and high-profile controversies during the six weeks since he announced his candidacy.

Campaign video denounced as homophobic

On Wednesday, DeSantis appeared on a podcast with conservative commentator Tomi Lahren to discuss an online campaign video that some in his own party have called homophobic.

The cartoonishly styled video — which appeared on the “DeSantis War Room” Twitter account — begins with a montage of Trump from speeches and media appearances he made addressing LGBTQ issues.

In one clip, he affirms that transgender models can participate in his beauty pageants. In another, he is seen vowing to “protect LGBTQ citizens” in the wake of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida.

But then the video abruptly switches to images of DeSantis, intercut with headlines from his efforts as governor to limit gender-affirming healthcare, transgender rights and drag performances.

The segment also juxtaposes the Florida governor with tough-guy pop-culture characters like actor Cillian Murphy’s gangster in the TV series Peaky Blinders and Leonardo DiCaprio’s corrupt stockbroker from the film The Wolf of Wall Street.

The video — released on the last day of June, at the end of the annual LGBTQ celebration of Pride Month — provoked immediate backlash, even among conservatives.

Ron DeSantis’s “extreme rhetoric” has “just ventured into homophobic territory”, tweeted the group Log Cabin Republicans, which represents right-leaning LGBTQ voters. It added that DeSantis’s messaging “will lose hard-fought gains in critical races across the nation”.

The team behind the Peaky Blinders also issued a statement, saying the use of its clips was done “without permission or official licence”.

“We do not support nor endorse the video’s narrative and strongly disapprove of the use of the content in this manner,” the show’s creator, star and production teams said in a joint statement.

But in Wednesday’s interview with Lahren, DeSantis said the message of the video was to identify “Donald Trump as really being a pioneer in injecting gender ideology into the mainstream”.

A woman holds a sign in front of her face, with a person in a car and a message in Spanish: "Stop, cancelled trip, Florida is no longer safe for an immigrant".
A woman in Los Angeles, California, protests Governor Ron DeSantis’s anti-immigration policies with a sign that reads in Spanish, ‘Stop, cancelled trip, Florida is no longer safe for an immigrant’ [File: Mike Blake/Reuters]

Controversial driver’s licence restrictions

DeSantis also faced backlash on Thursday for a list his administration published of driver’s licences no longer accepted in the state of Florida.

The announcement comes in the wake of a suite of laws that went into effect in Florida on July 1, furthering DeSantis’s right-wing priorities.

They included a measure to remove permitting requirements for the concealed carry of firearms and restrictions on teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation in school.

But Thursday’s press release highlighted one law in particular, invalidating within Florida out-of-state driver’s licences that were issued to undocumented immigrants.

States like Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii and Rhode Island offer driver’s licences specifically designed for undocumented immigrants, which indicate that they are not for federal identification and can be used for driving only.

The law was among the latest salvos in DeSantis’s aggressive immigration stance. In Thursday’s press release, he touted the policy as a crackdown on illegal immigration, attacking Democratic President Joe Biden for allowing a “border crisis” to unfold.

“Someone who is in our country illegally and has violated our laws should not possess a government-issued ID which allows them access to state-funded services and other privileges afforded to lawful residents,” DeSantis said in the release.

The policy, however, received criticism from the Mexican government, which said the law could be used for racial profiling among motorists and other individuals.

“Criminalisation is not the way to solve the issue of undocumented immigration,” Mexico said on Saturday.

A man in a blue collared shirt stands next to his wife and small child on the concrete, as reporters hold microphones out to him. The concrete is wet from recent rain.
Presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks alongside his wife, Casey DeSantis, and their daughter Madison at a Fourth of July parade in Merrimack, New Hampshire [File: Brian Snyder/Reuters]

Trailing Trump

DeSantis has consistently trailed Trump in the polls, despite similar hardline rhetoric in areas like immigration.

A June survey conducted by NBC News showed Trump with 51 percent support from Republican primary voters, up from 46 percent two months earlier.

But DeSantis, meanwhile, had seen a decline between April and June. In April, he was polling at 31 percent support. By June, that number was down to 22.

An Echelon Insights poll in late June likewise found DeSantis losing ground, with Trump leading the Republican race by a wide margin. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, meanwhile, was close behind DeSantis in third place.

DeSantis, who launched his campaign on May 24, had a bumpy start to his presidential bid. He announced his candidacy on Twitter Spaces with tech entrepreneur Elon Musk — but the audio broadcast was riddled with glitches, false starts and dead air.

Trump, however, has faced hurdles of his own: namely, numerous legal battles and investigations. In June, Trump was indicted on 37 federal charges related to his handling and alleged concealing of classified documents after leaving office.

He also faces state charges in New York for allegedly falsifying business records, in relation to a hush-money payment to an adult film actor.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies