Ron DeSantis says he will ‘destroy leftism’ in US if elected president

<span>Photograph: Matt Dayhoff/AP</span>
Photograph: Matt Dayhoff/AP

Predicting two terms in the White House should he defeat Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination next year, Ron DeSantis said he would go on to “destroy leftism in this country”.

Related: DeSantis’s limp start to 2024 race delights Trump but battle is not over

“I will be able to destroy leftism in this country and leave woke ideology in the dustbin of history,” the Florida governor told Fox News.

DeSantis declared his long-expected run last week, in a glitch-filled appearance on Twitter with its owner, Elon Musk.

The widely panned launch followed a long phony war period in which DeSantis toured early voting states and launched a campaign-oriented book but nonetheless fell further and further behind the former president in primary polling.

Trump faces unprecedented legal jeopardy, including criminal charges over a hush money payment to a porn star; being found liable for sexual assault and defamation; and facing indictment for his election subversion and incitement of the January 6 attack on Congress and for his retention of classified records.

Nonetheless, Trump maintains big leads over the rest of the field. Most polling averages put Trump more than 30 points ahead of his nearest challenger: DeSantis.

Undaunted, the governor told Fox & Friends on Monday: “At the end of the day, I’ve shown in Florida an ability to win huge swaths of voters that Republicans typically can’t win – while also delivering the boldest agenda anywhere in the country.”

Democrats and many political observers suggest that hardline record, including attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, moves to control teaching in public schools, loosened gun control laws and a six-week abortion ban, will cost DeSantis in a general election.

The governor’s high-profile fight with Disney, a major employer in his state, over its opposition to his so-called “don’t say gay” law prohibiting discussion of sexuality and gender identity in public classrooms, has also cost him support among some major donors.

Speaking to Fox News, DeSantis said the fight with Disney was about “standing for parents … standing for children. And I think a multibillion-dollar company that sexualises children is not consistent with the values of Florida or the values of a place like Iowa”, which will hold the first Republican contest next year.

Related: Now’s the time to think about just how bad a DeSantis presidency would be | Margaret Sullivan

DeSantis, 44, has amassed a significant campaign war chest and remains the clear strongest challenger to Trump, ahead of candidates including the former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, the South Carolina senator Tim Scott and Asa Hutchinson, a former governor of Arkansas.

Polling concerning a hypothetical general election between DeSantis and Joe Biden puts the governor and the president neck-and-neck.

Speaking to Fox News, DeSantis said: “I think there’s a reason why the legacy media is attacking me more than they’re attacking anybody else, because I think they realise that if I’m successful in winning the Republican nomination, we’re going to bring it home in the general election.

“And I pledge to Republican voters if you nominate me, I will be taking the oath of office on January 20, 2025, on the west side of the Capitol. No more excuses about why we can’t get it done. We need to get it done, and I will get it done.”