DeSantis launches GOP presidential campaign in Twitter announcement plagued by glitches
MIAMI — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis launched his 2024 presidential campaign on Wednesday with firm words but a disastrous Twitter announcement that did little to counter criticism that the 44-year-old Republican may not be ready to take on former President Donald Trump.
While he tried to project confidence, DeSantis' unusual decision to announce his campaign in an online conversation with Twitter CEO Elon Musk ultimately backfired. The audio stream crashed repeatedly, making it virtually impossible for most users to hear the new presidential candidate in real time.
“American decline is not inevitable, it is a choice. And we should choose a new direction — a path that will lead to American revitalization,” DeSantis said on the glitchy stream, racing through his conservative accomplishments. “I am running for president of the United States to lead our great American comeback."
While his critics in both parties delighted in the rocky start, DeSantis' announcement marks a new chapter in his extraordinary rise from little-known congressman to two-term governor to a leading figure in the nation’s bitter fights over race, gender, abortion and other divisive issues.
DeSantis’ path to the Republican presidential nomination will not be an easy one.
He enters the race looking up at Trump in early polls while facing serious questions about his far-right policies, his campaign-trail personality and his lack of relationships across the Republican ecosystem. He has generated significant interest among GOP primary voters by casting himself as a younger and more electable version of the 76-year-old former president.
The ultimate Republican nominee is expected to face Democratic President Joe Biden on the general election ballot in November 2024.
DeSantis joins a field that also includes former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Former Vice President Mike Pence is also considered a likely presidential candidate but has not yet announced a bid.
The governor has been courting primary voters in key states for much of the year and using an allied super political action committee to build a large political organization that is essentially a campaign in waiting and claims at least $30 million in the bank.
In choosing Twitter on Wednesday evening, DeSantis tried to take a page out of the playbook that helped turn businessman-TV celebrity Trump into a political star.
It did not go as planned.
The online event started off with technical glitches that Musk said were due to “straining” servers because so many people were trying to listen to the audio-only event. More than 20 minutes passed beyond the scheduled start time with users getting kicked off, hearing microphone feedback, hold music and other technical problems.
“You can tell by the mistakes that it’s real,” said Musk.
Trump's team mocked DeSantis.
"This is a disaster. Not surprising,” tweeted senior Trump adviser Chris LaCivita.
DeSantis, who likely would not have become the Florida governor without Trump’s endorsement, has adopted the former president’s fiery personality, his populist policies and even some of his rhetoric and mannerisms.
Yet DeSantis has one thing his rival does not: a credible claim that he may be more electable than Trump, who faces multiple legal threats, including criminal charges in New York, and who presided over Republican losses in three consecutive national elections.
DeSantis, just six months ago, won his reelection in Florida by a stunning 19 percentage points — even as Republicans in many other states struggled. He also scored several major policy victories during the Republican-controlled Legislature’s spring session.
Aware of DeSantis’ draw, Trump has been almost singularly focused on undermining his political appeal for months. Trump and his team believe that DeSantis may be Trump’s only legitimate threat for the nomination.
Hours before the announcement, Trump argued in a social media post that “Ron DeSanctus” cannot win the general election or the GOP primary because of his previous votes in Congress on Social Security and Medicare.
“He desperately needs a personality transplant and, to the best of my knowledge, they are not medically available yet," Trump added. "A disloyal person!”
The kitchen-sink attacks and nicknames won’t be DeSantis’ only hurdle.
He is a political heavyweight in Florida and a regular on Fox News, but allies acknowledge that most primary voters in other states don’t know him well.
If they were paying attention on Wednesday, they might not have gotten a good impression. The Florida governor spent most of the day in private. He met with donors at a luxury hotel in Miami before trying to address the public for the first time on Twitter.