An Awkward Silence: Ron DeSantis’ Failed Bold Twitter Tactic

It was an announcement that was not heard around the world.

Ron DeSantis plans to kick off his presidential campaign with a groundbreaking social media strategy on Wednesday evening, introducing himself in an audio-only Twitter forum with Elon Musk. His 2024 effort began with a moment of silence. And then several more.

A voice cuts in, then two—Mr. Musk’s? —only to disappear again.

“It’s quiet now,” someone whispered. This is real.

“We’ve got so many people here that we’re kind of melting down the servers,” says titular host David Sacks. “That’s a good sign.” It’s not true.

Soon, all signs are not good. Keep the music playing for a while. Some users were immediately booted from the platform, which amassed hundreds of thousands of accounts to tune in.

“The servers were a little nervous,” Mr. Musk had said, possibly unaware that his microphone was hot, at least briefly.

For 25 minutes, the only person who unmistakably did not speak (at least on the microphone) was Mr. DeSantis.

The premiere location chosen by the Florida governor was always risky, an aural gamble against co-star Mr. Musk, known for his erratic and oxygen-breathing habits, and the persuasive power of Mr. DeSantis’ own disembodied voice. (“Whining,” Donald J. Trump called him.)

But higher-order shortcomings proved to be more relevant. Twitter’s streaming tool, called Spaces, has glitches in history. The execution capabilities that are at the heart of DeSantis’ campaign message are conspicuously missing. For a politician who has been hopelessly accused online for years — a former aide to DeSantis said he read his Twitter mentions regularly — the incident amounted to hard confirmation, An exercise in the zeitgeist instead of turning into a hellish conference call.

“You can tell it’s real in some of the mistakes,” Mr Musk said.

At 6:26 p.m., Mr. DeSantis finally made his announcement long after his campaign announced his intentions, reading an oft-repeated excerpt from an introductory video and an email to reporters more than 20 minutes earlier. script.

“Well,” he began, “I’m running for President of the United States to lead our great American renaissance.”

DeSantis stayed on the call after flipping through a curated biography documenting his military background and “vigorous” demeanor. Mr. Sachs, a tech entrepreneur close to Mr. Musk, acknowledged the earlier confusion.

“Thank you for putting up with these technical issues,” he said. “What made you want to take the opportunity to do this?”

Mr. DeSantis turned immediately to his stewardship of Florida in the age of the coronavirus.

“Do you go with the crowd?” he asked, recalling his disdain for expert decision-making, “or do you look at the data yourself and go against the grain?”

Competitors agree: If he wants to set himself apart, Mr. DeSantis has succeeded in his own way.

“This link works,” teased the @JoeBiden account, inviting followers to donate.

“‘Rob,'” Mr. Trump posted on Truth Social, a standard misspelled troll twisted into a confusing (if perhaps childish) punchline: “My red button is bigger , better, stronger, and working.”

Even Fox News is on the rise.

“Want to actually see and hear Ron DeSantis?” reads the pop-up banner on his website. “Tune in to Fox News at 8 p.m. ET” (Mr. DeSantis began by urging donations, wondering if supporters would “destroy that part of the internet.”)

In the long run, it may prove that the technical hiccups aren’t serious, but it’s a frustrating turn for Mr. DeSantis after months of elaborate political choreography.

Much of his strength as a contender over the past year has been theoretical — the enigmatic candidate has built a national image the way he has: killer of liberals, smasher of enemies, Trumpian un-Trump.

He will conquer and shore. He will make America Florida.

He will be a striking sight. presumably.

Mr. DeSantis’ pre-election reality has been less than impressive, clouded by his public unease, uneasy donors and the huge poll gap between him and Mr. Trump.

Perhaps, with better technology, a visual-less campaign debut could be a clever way to rediscover the aura of the past, letting listeners fill in the mystery box of their choice before Mr Trump tries to throw it on stage Down.

Or maybe the Governor’s superficial predominance — which looks alike before the full audition — is doomed to translate poorly on Wednesday when there’s nothing to see. It’s hard to project relentless swagger and take on the odds at invisible rallies without unfriendly questions or rank-and-file voters.

Mr. DeSantis said he did not need such input. “I just know instinctively, like what the average person thinks about this stuff,” DeSantis said of the culture wars issue, in musings on “wake banks” and “authentication cartels.”

But this shouldn’t be a typical launch event, controlled by visual cues and administrative precision: a stately podium, an unwrinkled American flag, seemingly enthusiastic supporters in the sweet spot behind a candidate.

“It’s not about building a brand or virtue signaling,” Mr. DeSantis once said of his leadership. If his ambition was to generate organic buzz, the governor got his way.

This is the unique, compelling, viral virtue.

It’s a sight to behold. presumably.

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