Ken Cuccinelli, a former Trump senior adviser, announced on Thursday the launch of his “Never Back Down PAC,” focused on urging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to run for president.
Cuccinelli, who served as the Acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security during former President Donald Trump’s presidency, formally asked DeSantis to run for president on Thursday, calling for “fresh conservative leadership.”
“America’s Future is Ron DeSantis,” Cuccinelli said in his announcement video, introducing his Never Back Down PAC.
“Today, I’m asking you to run for president. You’ve had our back. Now we will have yours. It’s time for fresh conservative leadership,” Cuccinelli said, touting DeSantis’s record in Florida, as the governor has largely focused on defending parental rights and addressing the “radical education establishment and their woke politics that they have brought into the classroom.”
“Under his leadership, Governor DeSantis has made Florida the number one destination for Americans looking for more freedom and a brighter future,” he said. “When Governor DeSantis is President DeSantis there won’t be any Chinese spy balloons drifting across America.”
“For all of you watching today, I’m asking you to join us in calling on Governor DeSantis to run to become president,” he pleaded, asking supporters for a “fundraising bonanza” in favor of urging the governor to run:
— Ken Cuccinelli (@KenCuccinelli) March 9, 2023
In a press release announcing the PAC, Cuccinelli said he has spoken to “many” grassroots conservative activists nationwide who are “very enthusiastic” about a potential 2024 DeSantis bid.
“The energy is there, grassroots conservatives see the Governor as a leader and a fighter with a winning conservative track record who will lead the Republican Party to victory in 2024,” the former Virginia attorney general said, expressing confidence that supporters will “build an unmatched grassroots political army for Governor DeSantis to help carry him to the White House.”
DeSantis has yet to say if he intends to throw his hat in the presidential ring, despite mounting media speculation. One reporter asked him about his intentions in light of Nikki Haley formally throwing her hat in the presidential ring. When asked about his own intentions, DeSantis coyly responded, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
His refusal to wholly dismiss rumors of a 2024 presidential bid has caused tension between himself and Trump, the latter accusing DeSantis of “playing games.”
“And now, Ron DeSanctimonious is playing games! The Fake News asks him if he’s going to run if President Trump runs, and he says, ‘I’m only focused on the Governor’s race. I’m not looking into the future.’ Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer,” Trump wrote in a statement and Truth Social post in November 2022.
Despite the public jabs from Trump, DeSantis has yet to criticize the former president, at least in a public capacity. When asked about the rumored civil war post-election, DeSantis told reporters that “people just need to chill out.”
Meanwhile, DeSantis has garnered support from some establishment Republicans, including failed Trump challenger Jeb Bush, who praised the prospect of DeSantis running in 2024.
“I think it is,” Bush said when asked if this was DeSantis’s opportunity to run for higher office.
“He’s been a really effective governor. He’s young. I think we’re on the verge of a generational change in our politics – I kind of hope so. I think it’s time for a more forward-leaning future-oriented conversation or politics as well,” Bush stated during an appearance on a Fox Nation special.
Recent surveys show Trump and DeSantis continuing to top the potential GOP primary field, but Trump appears to continue to dominate, routinely surpassing his potential challengers by double digits. A recent Morning Consult survey also showed the former president garnering majority support.