Ron DeSantis will attempt to steady his fledgling Republican presidential campaign with a mini-tour of early primary states next week, after technical glitches on Wednesday night made a disaster of his formal launch on Twitter.
The Florida governor was ridiculed by political foes including Joe Biden and Donald Trump over an event intended to give one of the leading contenders for his party’s nomination a solid base from which to build his 2024 offensive, but which rapidly became a shambles.
Those who tuned in to the audio streaming event on Twitter Spaces expecting to listen to DeSantis announcing his candidacy for the White House instead heard 20 minutes of feedback, outages and garbled audio before the feed was cut altogether.
At one stage the billionaire Elon Musk, the owner of the social media platform who was moderating the event, was heard to say Twitter servers were unable to cope with 600,000 users attempting to listen. DeSantis eventually declared he was running on a new stream, launched 25 minutes late and with half of the original audience.
Biden, the Democratic president running for re-election, seized on the chaos to post a mocking tweet, directing to a fundraising page with the words: “This link works.”
Trump, who Biden beat in 2020, responded on his own Truth Social platform using one of his nicknames for the politician seen as his only credible challenger for the Republican nomination.
“The DeSanctus Twitter launch is a disaster. His whole campaign will be a disaster. Watch!” Trump wrote.
“Also, he desperately needs a personality transplant and, to the best of my knowledge, they are not medically available yet. A disloyal person!”
Trump claims DeSantis became governor of Florida because of his endorsement.
Commentators’ descriptions of the botched Twitter event included “train-wreck”, “awkward”, “fiasco” and “horrendous”, while a widely circulated meme poked fun at DeSantis’s association with Musk, also the owner of the private company SpaceX. The two are pictured in front of a crashed and crumpled space rocket and the words “failure to launch”.
The derision continued on Thursday as the hashtag #DeSaster trended on Twitter.
Hoping to resume normal service as soon as possible, campaign aides for DeSantis announced a four-day tour of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina from next Tuesday.
“Our campaign is committed to putting in the time to win these early nominating states,” said his campaign manager, Generra Peck, in a statement that made no mention of the Twitter embarrassment.
“No one will work harder than Governor DeSantis to share his vision with the country. He has only begun to fight.”
The series of speeches and “fireside chats” with supporters and donors will be DeSantis’s first face-to-face opportunities of his official campaign. Some political analysts said a more traditional rally or town hall would have made for a more successful launch event.
“How is it better to deliver that announcement via audio to silence as opposed to doing so in front of a massive crowd of thousands of supporters against a great backdrop in Florida?” wrote Philip Klein, editor of the National Review Online, a conservative outlet.
“DeSantis enters this race well behind Donald Trump and faces questions about whether he will be able to scale up from being a successful governor to becoming a winning presidential candidate. He doesn’t have much margin for error, and his first action as a candidate was a huge mistake.”
Rival Republicans who have already entered the race were also cynical about DeSantis’s approach, and his credentials for the nomination.
Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, called DeSantis “a mini-Trump … without the charm” in a campaign ad this week. It was a reference to DeSantis’s pitch to donors at closed door meetings, reported by the Tampa Bay Times, that he was “like Trump, but without the drama”.
“DeSantis might not have Trump’s taste for incendiary tweets but make no mistake: his record shows that his leadership style will only lead to more drama,” Haley’s campaign manager, Betsy Ankney, wrote in a memo to reporters.
“The glaring difference between the two is DeSantis’s inability to interact directly with voters. The last several months have been filled with brutal headlines about his lack of basic people skills.”
Appearances next week in Iowa and elsewhere will provide an early test of DeSantis’s ability to deal directly with potential supporters, something the sterile atmosphere of Wednesday’s Twitter Spaces event online was never going to provide.
Both Haley and Tim Scott, the Republican South Carolina senator who launched his campaign on Monday, have been in Iowa this week. DeSantis was there recently on a tour promoting his book, The Courage to Be Free.
As an official presidential candidate, DeSantis will be in Des Moines again on Tuesday for what his staff are calling a “campaign kick-off” – as if Wednesday’s Twitter debacle never happened.
The four-day tour, across 12 cities and towns in the three states, was being billed as Our Great American Comeback Tour – a similar mantra to the ubiquitous Make America Great Again messaging that saw Trump elected to the White House in 2016.
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