Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and his team are looking to recover after a rocky campaign debut on Twitter that was marred by technical glitches.
The live announcement on Twitter was intended to serve as a bold, albeit unusual, presidential rollout for DeSantis that showcased his ability to sidestep mainstream media and go directly to his supporters. But it was ultimately riddled with panicked whispers about technical problems and frequent audio cutouts.
Now, as he sets off on his nascent campaign, DeSantis is tasked with overcoming criticism that he’s not ready for prime time.
“I can see it now: ‘not ready to launch a campaign, not ready to run the country’ will be the tagline,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, predicting a spate of anti-DeSantis ads from his rivals.
The Twitter rollout was broadly mocked across the political spectrum. Former President Trump’s campaign quickly blasted out an email dubbing it a “failure to launch,” while President Biden needled the Florida governor in a post on the very site that DeSantis used to announce his campaign.
“This link works,” Biden tweeted, directing users to a donation page for his campaign.
The technical glitches weren’t the only aspect of the campaign launch that drew criticism.
DeSantis’s decision to announce alongside Twitter’s controversial owner Elon Musk made the livestream appear at times to be more of a panel discussion than a campaign rollout that allowed DeSantis to bask in the spotlight.
And the discussion carried on for roughly an hour after DeSantis made his plans clear, delving into the weeds of public policy, including a segment on cryptocurrency. One Republican strategist called the conversation “boring.”
“Look, we always talk about wanting candidates to say where they stand; have a conversation about policy and what they’re going to do,” the strategist said. “But when you do that, it’s got to be about the stuff that people care about. Talk about inflation or the border or crime. Somehow that conversation got on the topic of Dogecoin.”
Beyond the Twitter debacle, DeSantis’s campaign announcement was met with fanfare. He dominated headlines when he filed formal paperwork with the Federal Election Commission Wednesday afternoon, and a campaign launch video released in the evening was widely viewed.
His campaign said Thursday that the Twitter event and launch video received more than 30 million views combined within just 15 hours.
Yet the glitch-marred livestream served as a bruise on his campaign launch. Early polling shows him running an average of 30 percentage points behind Trump nationally, and some Republicans said that the rocky debut damaged his argument that he’s effectively a less drama-prone version of the former president.
“There’s the argument that he’s Trump with competence, but even Trump is making fun of this,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist.
Still, most Republicans, including Heye, said that the technical snafus of DeSantis’s announcement aren’t fatal for the governor’s campaign. DeSantis’s team still said that it raised $1 million in the first hour following the rollout, and he’s set to hit the ground running next week when he begins a tour through critical early voting states, like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
“This won’t matter in two weeks,” Erick Erickson, the conservative radio host, wrote in an email sent out Wednesday night. “But it’ll be a major political story for the next few days as DeSantis foes make ‘failure to launch’ jokes and Musk haters ridicule what Twitter has become.”
“It was bold. It turned out to be a mistake. It is recoverable. But it is a reminder that some things should be under full control of the candidate, particularly the launch day.”
DeSantis and his team, meanwhile, are brushing off the criticism over the rollout. At a gathering Wednesday evening in Miami, DeSantis donors paid little attention to the technical issues as they set off to raise money for his campaign.
“We’ve already raised a ton of money. He’s going to be in Iowa, New Hampshire next week,” one DeSantis donor who attended a fundraising event for the governor Wednesday in Miami said. “Nobody is going to remember this.”
DeSantis’s campaign declined to comment for this story, though the governor himself sought to spin the glitches as a sign of enthusiasm for his campaign launch, arguing that the social media platform simply couldn’t handle the sheer number of people logging on to watch his announcement.
“Hi, this is Governor Ron DeSantis. I’m running for president of the United States to lead our great American comeback. We announced that on Twitter Spaces earlier tonight and it broke the internet because so many people were excited about being on the Twitter space,” DeSantis said in a video released Wednesday night.
It’s unclear just how long the debacle will linger over the campaign. Heye noted that it’s not uncommon for campaigns to make mistakes, adding that DeSantis’s announcement isn’t likely to be the factor that costs him the 2024 GOP nomination.
“For DeSantis, yeah, this was embarrassing last night,” Heye said. “But on Thursday morning, you dust yourself off and you move on with it. No voters are going to be thinking about this.”