If Ron DeSantis was hoping for a flashy entrance into the 2024 race for the White House, Wednesday’s Twitter Spaces event hosted by CEO Elon Musk and moderator David Sacks was not it.
The long-awaited official launch event of the DeSantis 2024 campaign ended up being a disjointed mess peppered with technical issues that was instantly ridiculed by his political enemies.
The governor spoke for a little more than an hour before he rushed off to attend a slightly more technically-sound interview on the Fox News channel; the Twitter event began late, with the first iteration of the chat room crashing and haveing to be rebooted.
Campaign staffers for President Joe Biden didn’t miss the opportunity to stick a knife in the governor’s wound, tweeting: “This link works”, and providing a portal to a donation page.
The second iteration fared better, but quickly became equally as focused on a sort of Elon Musk lovefest as it was on the Florida governor, who found himself pushing his record in the state at every opportunity while other speakers focused on national issues — including, mainly, the supposed censorship of conservatives on social media platforms. He found no openings to substantively hit former President Donald Trump, who meanwhile was battering the governor in a series of press releases and Truth Social postings.
Mr DeSantis’s launch event was joined by Congressman Thomas Massie, an endorser of the governor in the House of Representatives. Still, Mr Massie couldn’t help ending his remarks not with a rousing call to support his friend, the governor, but rather with starstruck praise for Mr Musk — including the excited declaration that he owned a Tesla.
The governor spent a notable portion of his time defending his war against the Disney corporation, which has begun to look increasingly costly for the state of Florida with the company filing a lawsuit against him and accusing him of using his office to discriminate against their business over a political agenda. The Disney corporation recently announced that it was axing a major business development project in Orlando as the dispute escalated, which did not escape Mr DeSantis’s focus on Wednesday evening. He complained that the once-planned project was wholly unrelated to the state’s dispute with Disney’s self-managed business district, and speculated without any real knowledge that the company had fallen on tough financial times, supposedly necessitating the shuttering of the project.
His remarks came as foes on all sides mocked the governor’s belly-flop into the 2024 race; Donald Trump, his main rival for the GOP nomination, dubbed the event Mr DeSantis’s “failure to launch” in a press release from his campaign, while Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gleefully noted that her own non-campaign-related Among Us session with Twitch streamers Hasanabi and Pokimane had easily surpassed the attendance of Mr Musk and Mr DeSantis’s Twitter Space.
Even frequent Musk fanboy “Catturd2”, a hero of the right-wing Twittersphere, panned the event as “like being forced to listen to a conference call you can’t wait to get off of”.
“Ron DeSantis’ botched campaign announcement is another example of why he is just not ready for the job. The stakes are too high, and the fight to save America is too critical to gamble on a first-timer who is clearly not ready for prime time. President Trump is the proven leader that will be ready on day one to turn the country around,” said a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign.
The bloodletting didn’t stop there. Mr DeSantis couldn’t even find a friendly reception on the website of Fox News, where he was headed only minutes later for an interview, which dubbed the event “amateur hour”.
“Much-hyped Ron DeSantis presidential announcement a disaster on Twitter,” declared the conservative news site in a headline.
Altogether, the reception of the event was indeed a disaster — even if the performance of the candidate himself found little room for critiques. The governor sounded composed and prepared to hit his talking points on the rare occaision that he actually got to make them, and there were none of the awkward gaffes that have hounded his potential general election opponent Joe Biden.
But the actual event itself, with control of much of it being handed away from the DeSantis campaign, was at times hardly focused on the candidate itself. Compounded by the audio-only nature of the discussion, it led to a series of branding and showmanship failures that quickly added up to a muddled mess which was potentially, in the end, less impressive than the campaign launch of longshot candidate Sen Tim Scott earlier in the week.
Mr DeSantis enters the 2024 race as the only Republican polling in the double digits in matchups against Donald Trump and others. But Wednesday night’s wheezing jog onto the track by the Florida governor did not give the impression of a candidate capable of maintaining a sustained campaign against the former president, who has already focused his sights directly on his rival.