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(LifeSiteNews) — In the fulfillment of what has long been regarded as a matter of “when, not if,” Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday evening formally announced his entrance into the 2024 presidential contest during an audio-only Twitter Spaces interview with billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk that began at about 6 p.m. ET. The news comes after DeSantis officially filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) earlier in the day.

The unprecedented interview, attended by hundreds of thousands of listeners, got off to a bumpy start amid technical glitches apparently triggered by a strain on the servers. The Twitter Space crashed about 20 minutes in, forcing organizers to shut it down and start up a new one. Musk later said the problems could be traced to initially launching the space using his own Twitter account (which boasts over 140 million followers) as well as the fact that hundreds of thousands of listeners joined to hear the interview, causing a scalability issue.

“Congrats on breaking the internet there,” moderator and GOP-donor David Sacks joked to DeSantis before prompting him to begin with his announcement.

“Well, I am running for president of the United States to lead our Great American Comeback,” Gov. DeSantis said. Never mentioning former President Donald Trump, who will be his chief rival in the 2024 Republican fight for the nomination, DeSantis delivered remarks denouncing the Biden administration’s policies on issues ranging from the COVID-19 response to immigration and vowed to lead the “Great American Comeback” into “normalcy” and “sanity.”

“We know our country is going in the wrong direction. We feel it in our bones,” he said. “Truth needs to be our foundation.”

READ: DeSantis officially files to run for President ahead of Twitter interview with Elon Musk

DeSantis, who soared to re-election victory last year by a nearly 20-point margin, then fielded questions about a range of hot-button topics including the COVID-19 response, Disney, free speech, wokeness, and radical gender ideology. The interview did not touch on the governor’s recent moves to enact laws banning many abortions in the Sunshine State.

Kicking off the question-and-answer session with a nod to Musk, DeSantis said, “I think what was done with Twitter was really significant for the future of our country.” He argued that government collusion with Big Tech companies cannot be permitted in a free country.

In response, Musk remarked that “Twitter is indeed expensive, but free speech is priceless.”

Moving on to answer questions from Stanford professor of medicine Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a prominent opponent of the mainstream narrative surrounding the alleged necessity of COVID-19 lockdowns, DeSantis called for an “honest reckoning” about “what happened during COVID.”

The Florida governor, who earned national acclaim among conservatives for doggedly fighting COVID-19 mandates and fully reopening Florida in 2020, said that elites and government health bureaucrats whose “impulses were authoritarian” had failed to follow the evidence when it strayed from the prevailing narrative on masks, experimental COVID jabs, and lockdowns.

“The U.S. government needs to acknowledge the failures,” DeSantis said. “All of those agencies need to be cleaned out.”

DeSantis also responded to allegations of “book banning” related to his moves to cull radical sexual and racial materials from the classroom. “The whole book ban thing is a hoax,” he said. “What we have done is empowered parents with the ability to review the curriculum.” He argued that “jamming gender ideology in elementary school is wrong,” and said it was “the right thing to do” to get rid of materials that teach children that some races are inherently oppressors while others are inherently oppressed.

He also spoke about corporate wokeness and the centralization of power and influence.

According to DeSantis, who banned the use of woke Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) scoring in state investment plans, the left is using ESG to do through the financial sector what they could never achieve through the ballot box.” He also discussed his moves to ban central bank digital currency in Florida, which he blasted as “a massive transfer of power” away from private citizens.

The governor also shrugged off criticism lodged against him by opponents.

“I don’t care about fanfare,” he said. “I don’t need any adulation. I just know I’m in a position where I have a chance to make a difference. And I’m either doing it or I’m not.”

READ: ​​DeSantis moves to ban central bank digital currencies in Florida: ‘All about surveilling Americans’

DeSantis’ unconventional decision to announce his candidacy on Twitter signals a break from traditional norms and a growing conservative move away from legacy media outlets and toward the social media platform, which has been regarded as a haven for free speech after its 2022 acquisition by Musk.

The Wednesday announcement also comes after months of waiting for the popular Florida governor to officially throw his hat into the ring. DeSantis had previously held back from stating whether or not he will run despite publishing an autobiography, meeting with foreign dignitaries, and holding a rally in early-voting battleground state Iowa this month. The Florida governor has also earned a reputation for frequently wading into national politics, especially by combating woke ideology and left-wing power grabs.

DeSantis has been recognized on both the right and the left sides of the political aisle as a cultural warrior. Within Florida, he has notably taken on major power centers including Disney, which generated backlash for formally opposing the governor’s legislation to protect children from LGBT indoctrination in school.

Just last week, DeSantis signed a new robust package of laws aiming to protect Florida’s children from radical gender ideology.

“Florida is proud to lead the way in standing up for our children,” he said at the time. “As the world goes mad, Florida represents a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy.”

Though DeSantis never mentioned Trump in the hour-long interview Wednesday, many observers of the two men and their political prestige have concluded that the growing Republican competition for the nomination will likely narrow down to a two-man race between Trump and DeSantis.

As previously noted by LifeSiteNews, social conservatives’ preference between DeSantis and Trump will likely focus on the men’s differences with regard to key issues including abortion and COVID-19 mandates.

DeSantis fully reopened Florida in September 2020 and has fiercely fought COVID jab mandates while Trump has gotten backlash from his base for touting his work getting the highly controversial injections produced and rolled out. Despite taking credit for the shots, however, Trump has held that he doesn’t believe the shots should be mandated.

READ: DeSantis signs new laws banning ‘medical authoritarianism,’ protecting unvaxxed residents

On the pro-life front, DeSantis has signed legislation banning abortion after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected (usually about six weeks’ gestation), a decision from which Trump has distanced himself by suggesting it may be “too harsh.” The reaction came despite the fact that Trump played a major role in the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 thanks to his judicial appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It remains to be seen whether DeSantis’ Wednesday official entrance into the presidential contest will boost his polling numbers, which have begun to decline in comparison with Trump. After announcing his candidacy in November, Trump has spent months attacking DeSantis even though he endorsed him for governor in 2018. Though scoring a sweeping re-election victory last year, DeSantis has seen his earlier competitive numbers as a presidential candidate against Trump subside in recent months as Trump dominates headlines.

Moreover, the technical glitches and clunky start of the Twitter Space interview have provided material for DeSantis’ opponents to take some early shots at him in the earliest moments of his officially announced candidacy.

Donald Trump Jr. swiftly nicknamed the Florida governor “DeSaster.” However, supporters of DeSantis were quick to point out that the crash came after a massive number of people attempted to join the interview at the same time, suggesting the glitches may actually be a testament to DeSantis’ popularity.