The feed went out, connections dropped, hosts seemed confused. It was ominous. It was also a black mark on the candidate’s supposed trademarks: expert organization and comfort with the cutting edge of modern media.
“It was bold. It turned out to be a mistake,” radio host Erick Erickson emailed supporters about the incident.
The risk for DeSantis is the prospect that the botched implementation forms a narrative and cuts against the same argument it’s making to Republican primary voters — which is a competent alternative to former President Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency. The governor has portrayed himself in public speeches and private donor meetings as a controlled, undramatic politician who espouses many of Trump’s policy positions without the trademark unpredictability. But on Wednesday, DeSantis — who fiercely values control — was the picture of the mess.
The governor’s team rushed to spin the moment as a sign of unprecedented excitement for the 44-year-old candidate, with hundreds of thousands of Twitter users trying to tune into the event throughout the hour.
“Hi, this is Governor Ron DeSantis. I’m running for president of the United States to lead our great American comeback. We announced it on the Twitter space tonight and it broke the internet because so many people were excited to be in the Twitter space,” DeSantis said in a hastily recorded video that doubled as a fundraising presentation.
But in the corners of the conservative press, including the outlets pining for an alternative to Trump, there was little will to evade the face plant. He called Philip Klein of the National Review It is a disaster ».
The Florida governor entered the presidential race on Wednesday with great fanfare: Polls show him in second place, sizable cash in PAC support and a record Republican results. But his unconventional decision to pitch his offer in a Twitter live chat went awry when the speech didn’t get off the ground for more than 30 minutes, leaving supporters and listeners alike wondering when the governor would actually announce his campaign.
Once underway, the nearly hour-long event provided an opportunity for DeSantis to deliver his monotone speech and answer easy questions from allies like Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) about the more controversial aspects of his record . Also, despite all of his problems, he seemed to generate interest. His campaign spokesman, Bryan Griffin, he said the team raised $1 million online in an hour and maximum adviser Jennera Peck tweeted that more than 700,000 people had joined the virtual launch, more than triple the more than 200,000 people in the room later in the discussion.
But it also invited an onslaught of taunts, including from Trump.
“Glitches. Technical Problems. Uncomfortable silences. A complete failure to launch. And that’s just the candidate! a Trump campaign spokesman sent to reporters.
Trump’s world had hinted that the former president would do something to potentially overshadow or distract from DeSantis’ launch, and there was speculation that Trump himself would even reappear on Twitter Wednesday night. This did not materialize. Instead, Trump attended DeSantis’ pitch with some of his advisers, who were reveling in the technical difficulties and making fun of the DeSantis team both publicly and privately.
By the end of the night, the Trump campaign released a video comparing Trump’s Mar-a-Lago announcement to the static, awkward start of DeSantis’ Twitter event and a barrage of statements about everything from the record of Florida governor to allegations his team swiped a line from a Trump State of the Union address.
“Ron DeSantis’s failed campaign ad is another example of why he’s not ready for the job,” Karoline Leavitt, spokeswoman for pro-Trump super PAC MAGA Inc. said in a statement.
DeSantis’ original plan was for him to do his first post-announce interview on Fox News with Tucker Carlson, according to two people familiar with his plans. When the Fox News anchor was fired, the governor kept his commitment to the network. He appeared with replacement anchor Trey Gowdy in the 8 p.m. hour, although the cable news channel saw its evening audience plummet following Carlson’s ouster.
A DeSantis political operation official said he could not confirm details of the schedule.
Gowdy teased Twitter’s technical issues at the beginning of the interview, but also touched on substantive issues with DeSantis, such as inflation, China, abortion and immigration. DeSantis said he will declare a national emergency on his first day in office and « mobilize all forces » to rebuild the border wall. He spoke about his plans to fire FBI Director Chris Wray and retool the « armed » Justice Department. Neither Gowdy nor DeSantis spoke of Trump by name.
As the night wore on, some Republicans rushed to DeSantis’ defense.
“It was coherent, passionate and modern. He stood up for what he believes,” said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and DeSantis supporter. “DeSantis announced it like this: focused on the future and bypassing traditional media.”
An attendee at a DeSantis donor event in Miami, meanwhile, said the room was untouched by the launch issues. Instead, they focused on raising a significant sum of money that would put those issues on the back burner. At the Four Seasons Hotel, they gathered to a packed room, munching on appetizers, mingling with prominent figures from the governor’s campaign, including former Nevada Senate candidate Adam Laxalt. DeSantis is expected to address the group tomorrow and there should also be a policy briefing from top advisers.
But the incident appeared to linger well beyond launch day, serving as a cudgel to not only rival Republicans but also Democrats looking ahead to the general election.
« You never get a second chance to make a first impression! » tweeted a political media consultant Lis Smith, a Democrat. “This is why most presidents agonize over the minute details of a launch: the venue, the music, the shooting, the schedule, the speech, etc. «
Alex Isenstadt and Daniel Lippman contributed to the reporting.