DeSantis debacle: Twitter Spaces presidential announcement marred by technical problems

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gambled by choosing to announce his presidential run on Twitter, in an audio-only interview with the social media company’s owner, Elon Musk, who appears to be building a conservative media platform to rival Fox News.

But that strategy appeared — at least for now — to have backfired. Wednesday night’s event was marred by technical disruptions that delayed the long-expected presidential announcement by nearly half an hour. The new format, known as Twitter Spaces, appeared to confound even expert users of the platform.

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a fundraising event in Iowa, May 13. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

When he finally was cleared for lift-off, DeSantis read a version of his stump speech, touting his electoral victories and campaigns against what he calls the “woke mind virus.” He then took questions from prominent supporters including Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who has endorsed him, and from activist Christopher Rufo, the architect of the governor’s educational crusade.

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A risky choice

Elon Musk
Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. Michel Euler/Pool/AP)

DeSantis could have first announced his presidential run on Fox News, which interviewed him later in the evening. Instead, aligning himself with Musk and his $44-billion platform was seemingly intended to indicate a campaign willing to innovate.

But Twitter’s servers appeared to be overwhelmed by the roughly 500,000 visitors who logged on to hear DeSantis. And since Musk had fired many of the platform’s engineers, the problem took some time to rectify.

David Sacks, the Bay Area investor who moderated the event, did his best along with Musk put a positive spin on the delay. “We've got so many people here that I think we are kind of melting the servers, which is a good sign,” he said. But it was hard to see the delay as anything but a setback for a campaign eager to display ruthless competence.

'Did y'all not test this first?' Twitter reacts to Ron DeSantis' announcement crash (Tallahassee Democrat) >>>

‘War on woke’

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb. 24, 2022. (John Raoux/AP)

In prepared remarks that closely mirrored speeches he had recently given in Iowa and elsewhere, as well as in response to softball questions, DeSantis touted his record in handling the pandemic and battling progressive policies, which he has described in aggregate as a “war on woke.”

“We held the line when freedom was in the balance,” DeSantis said of his resistance to lockdowns and other pandemic precautions, some of which Trump initially supported.

Trump is DeSantis’s top competitor for the Republican presidential nomination, but the young governor cannot alienate the MAGA base he badly wants to court. On Wednesday night, he made no mention of Trump, but did allude to his own reelection win last November, implicitly contrasting his victory with Trump’s 2020 defeat.

“There is no substitute for winning,” he said.

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Trump pounces

DeSantis and Trump
DeSantis and Trump, the leading contenders for the GOP nomination. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Trump has opened a commanding lead over DeSantis in national and state polls, but he is also eager to dispatch the governor as quickly as possible. Wednesday night provided Trump with plenty of opportunities to mock the disciple he once endorsed and now loathes.

“Glitchy. Tech issues. Uncomfortable silences,” a campaign spokesman said. “A complete failure to launch. And that’s just the candidate!”

Steven Cheung, a top campaign adviser, wrote on Twitter that DeSantis was “Trump-lite and doesn’t have an original idea of his own,” a charge also leveled by former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, now also seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

For good measure, the Trump campaign also mocked DeSantis with a brief video of a rocket crashing in a fireball, as well as a fusillade of social media post meant to drown out the announcement.

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Biden piles on

Joe Biden
President Biden at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, April 29. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Staffers at the White House and on the Biden campaign were practically ecstatic at what they saw as DeSantis’s debacle.

In the midst of the Twitter Spaces meltdown, the president’s non-governmental account sent a tweet soliciting campaign contributions.

“This link works,” the accompanying message said.

Dark Brandon — the president’s online alter ego — also took predictable joy in the governor’s travails.

He may be older, but President Biden has what Trump and DeSantis sorely lack: substance (Miami Herald) >>>