Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, with his poll numbers sagging and his opponents circling like sharks, renewed his efforts to win over South Carolina Republicans on Tuesday, hoping for a reset for his struggling White House campaign.
Mr. DeSantis is hoping to quiet his doubters with a rare interview outside the conservative media bubble — he will be on CNN at 4 p.m. Eastern — and a swing through South Carolina, a hotly contested early primary state, where he filed the paperwork formally declaring his presidential candidacy.
The front-runner in the Republican primary, Donald J. Trump, has comfortably led polls in the Palmetto State for months, but the twice-indicted former president announced on Tuesday that he potentially faced new federal charges in connection with his efforts to hold onto power after he lost the 2020 election.
Two other Republican candidates with close ties to South Carolina, Senator Tim Scott and former Gov. Nikki Haley, will also hope to capitalize on Mr. Trump’s legal peril and Mr. DeSantis’s stumbles and present themselves as the new alternative to the former president.
But on Monday night in Tega Cay, S.C., on the North Carolina border, Mr. DeSantis continued to avoid full-on confrontation with Mr. Trump and stuck to his well-worn talking points: the supposed “indoctrination” of children by “leftist” educators, mobilizing the military to the southern border to stop “our country being invaded,” the coddling of “the Chinese Communist Party” by “D.C. elites” and his disappointment in Mr. Trump for failing to fire Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who helped lead the Covid-19 response in the final year of the Trump administration.
On Tuesday morning, Mr. DeSantis discussed military policy outside Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, a state that is dependent on military bases and has a large veteran population.
Mr. DeSantis has avoided mainstream news outlets, hoping to take his message directly to conservative audiences. But with a news conference on Tuesday morning in West Columbia, S.C., and a taped interview with the CNN host Jake Tapper in the afternoon, the governor is hoping to quiet detractors who say he cannot handle the heat of a critical press.
Newly released fund-raising figures, although strong overall at $20 million, show a candidate spending hand over fist and dangerously dependent on large donors, who could be looking elsewhere for a Trump alternative. Large donors have met in recent days with Mr. Scott and the wealthy entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
The DeSantis political operation may be strengthening its jabs against Mr. Trump. The DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down confirmed on Tuesday that a new advertisement from the group had used artificial intelligence to mimic the voice of Mr. Trump as if it were attacking Iowa’s popular conservative governor, Kim Reynolds. Politico reported on the ad on Monday evening.
Mr. Trump’s feud with Ms. Reynolds over her refusal to endorse him is real, and began with an attack on his social network, Truth Social. And it could hurt the former president’s chances in Iowa, the state that will cast the first ballots of the primary season in January, given that Ms. Reynolds is exceedingly popular with conservatives.
But the ad falsely purports to catch Mr. Trump on tape. The super PAC said, “Our team utilized technology to give voice to Donald Trump’s words and Truth Social post attacking Gov. Reynolds.”
The open-government group Public Citizen immediately called for the super PAC to take the ad down.
“This ad is racing us down a slippery slope where voters will be unable to distinguish authentic media from fake, A.I.-generated content,” said the group’s president, Robert Weissman.
In the meantime, Mr. DeSantis was trying to stake his flag in the South Carolina soil by officially declaring his candidacy.
“I’m excited to be the first Republican candidate to file candidacy paperwork in South Carolina as we continue our mission to reverse American decline by rejecting Bidenomics, stopping the invasion at the border, combating Communist China, and ensuring a better future for our children,” he said in a statement on Tuesday morning. “Help is on the way.”