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Elon Musk Tweets He Leans Toward Ron DeSantis for President in 2024

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(Bloomberg) -- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis embraced the backing of Elon Musk, joking that he welcomed “support from African Americans,” including the White, South African-born Tesla Inc. chief who said earlier he’s leaning toward the Republican for president in 2024.

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After Musk said on Twitter early Wednesday that he’s “tbd” on his 2024 pick but is leaning toward DeSantis, the Florida governor alluded to Musk’s continent of birth when joking with reporters about gaining the backing of the world’s wealthiest man.

“With Elon Musk, what I would say is, you know, I welcome support from African Americans, what can I say?,” said DeSantis, who won the support of 14% of Black voters in 2018 when he defeated a Black Democratic candidate to become governor.

When Musk was born in 1971, White supremacy prevailed in South Africa under the government’s apartheid regime. The racial wealth gap in the country persists; according to Statistics South Africa, employed Black people earn just over a quarter as much as their White peers. A far greater proportion of Black people are unemployed and depend on welfare.

Musk’s support for DeSantis came in a series of tweets starting about 3:28 am in New York on Wednesday. The billionaire also said he’d voted Republican for the first time in a special election for a Texas House seat and that he’s weighing creating a fund-raising group for moderate political candidates.

DeSantis, who has positioned himself as a stalwart conservative, has staked out a claim as the GOP’s heir apparent to Donald Trump.

He’s drawn criticism from many Democrats, public health authorities and advocates for LGBTQ rights for policies that scaled back pandemic public health precautions in his state and that seek to police grade-school education on sexual orientation and gender, including legislation his opponents have derided as the “don’t say ‘gay’” bill.

DeSantis is seeking re-election to a second term this year but is widely considered a potential 2024 Republican presidential challenger, even if Trump decides to run again as he has teased.

The Florida governor trails Trump in many polls forecasting a potential GOP presidential primary field but leads in some surveys when Trump isn’t included.

DeSantis ran ahead of Trump in a straw poll during this month’s Western Conservative Summit in Colorado and was the overwhelming choice for the GOP nomination if Trump doesn’t run again in a Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll earlier this year.

Musk, who supported Democrat Andrew Yang for president in 2020, also backed billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso for mayor of Los Angeles earlier this month. He tweeted last month that while he voted for Democrats in the past, he will now vote Republican because Democrats “have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them.”

He has also steadily ratcheted up criticisms of President Joe Biden’s administration, alleging that Biden is too beholden to labor and that Democrats stymie business efforts.

Biden, in turn, has shrugged off Musk’s jabs, including warnings on the economy. Earlier this month he dismissively wished the billionaire “lots of luck” in efforts to land on the moon.

Biden frequently celebrates American electric-vehicle makers with unionized workforces, but has seldom mentioned Tesla, which leads the industry. Tesla workers aren’t unionized.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced earlier this month that it’s expanding its evaluation of how Tesla’s automated driver program, known as Autopilot, handles crash scenes with first-responder vehicles. The probe has steadily widened and poses the risk of a recall order.

(Updates with additional background beginning in second paragraph. Musk’s title was corrected in a previous version of this story.)

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