Twitter spaces turned out not to be a safe space for DeSantis

  • DeSantis’ controlled message and discipline are an important part of his brand.
  • That was put to the test on Wednesday when he chose a new forum to launch his presidential campaign.
  • As listeners entered Twitter Spaces, it crashed.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has spent the last two years criss-crossing Florida and then the rest of America, where he kept the message and controlled his environment. During press conferences and political parades, he was rarely late. He made the same points at every stop — often criticizing President Joe Biden — and came prepared with ready-made responses for the press, often weighing in on the day’s breaking news.

But as of Wednesday night, the audio-only platform he chose to launch his long-awaited 2024 presidential campaign, known as Twitter Spaces, was out of his hands. The discussion he had with Twitter CEO Elon Musk and entrepreneur David Sacks, billed as “the first in the history of social media”, was chaotically delayed nearly 30 minutes after the site went down.

“We have so many people here that I think we’re melting the servers,” Sacks said. At some points, as many as 600,000 people were in the room, but when the conversation ended, as many as 300,000 had gathered to listen.

Once the technology kicked in, DeSantis pushed forward with his talking points, reiterating many of the positions he had already made clear during speeches on everything from Walt Disney World to immigration and cryptocurrency. He answered friendly questions from several attendees, none of which were about former President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the Twittersphere and rival campaigns were still focused on early technical glitches that could have been an embarrassment to Musk and DeSantis. #DeSaster started trending on the social media platform late in the evening.

“Technical glitches are not good omens,” a Republican political operative wrote to Insider 10 minutes into the conversation, which was filled with starts and stops, robot music and whispers.

Both Biden and Trump’s campaigns were successful. “This link works,” the Biden campaign wrote on Twitter, sharing a link to its fundraising page. The Trump campaign sent out several press releases criticizing DeSantis’s plummeting poll numbers, accusing him of being a lifelong politician and part of the establishment.

“Tim Scott’s presidential pitch, even with the microphone broken (don’t pay the contractor, Tim!), was by far the best presidential pitch of the week. Robs was a catastrophe!” Trump said, using the nickname “Rob” after a Daily Mail typo referring to DeSantis from a few weeks ago.

In lengthy news profiles, DeSantis is often defined in relation to Trump, as “Trump with brains” and Trump “no drama”.

By that, they mean DeSantis espouses similar policies and doesn’t back down when cornered, but he’s also a careful planner whose Florida administration has few leaks. He sometimes shuts down his combativeness during solemn moments and knows how to keep major news announcements under wraps until he’s ready to share them. When he does, they often make national headlines.

Liberal Trump, on the other hand, is famous for being impulsive, speaking his mind the moment he’s asked and firing off big decisions over Twitter that have his aides baffled.

On Wednesday, Sacks apologized to DeSantis for the technical difficulties and asked why he chose to do the ad with them instead of on cable television.

The governor said he wanted to “go against the grain” rather than “go with the crowd,” then turned the conversation back to politics, to how he’s resisted federal health officials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ron DeSantis

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida holds a copy of his new book as he speaks to a crowd at the Adventure Outdoors gun store in Smyrna, Georgia, March 30, 2023.

AP Photo/John Bazemore

DeSantis Allies: The Governor Broke the Internet

The DeSantis campaign attributed the difficulties to heightened interest in DeSantis’ presidential race. “There was so much enthusiasm for Governor DeSantis’s vision for our Great American Comeback that he literally blew up the internet,” campaign spokesman Bryan Griffin said on Twitter. “Washington is next. $1 million raised online in one hour…and counting!”

The choice to launch a campaign with Twitter could be seen as a gamble given the site has only been under Musk’s control for seven months, a period that has included numerous layoffs, and as many Democrats have accused the site of becoming more right.

Nearly 1 million people tried to enter Twitter spaces, campaign manager Generra Peck said on twitter after getting off the phone with Musk and Sacks. “They had over 700,000 in the room to start with hundreds of thousands trying to get in,” she wrote. “I had to change rooms.”

Presidential candidates often opt for more traditional methods of announcing their candidacies, holding public events or doing interviews with cable news channels. Trump himself began his 2016 campaign by descending on his golden escalator at Trump Tower in New York and kicked off his 2024 campaign in his gold-encrusted grand ballroom at Mar-a-Lago.

Sam Nunberg, who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, told Insider that he still thought DeSantis was smart to launch his campaign with Musk because the billionaire, who is also CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, is popular with conservatives. “If you told me there would be technical glitches but it would have Elon Musk, I would choose that option,” he said. “It’s recorded anyway.” The hashtag #DeSantis2024 was also trending.

The money raised will help pay for the campaign’s field game in Iowa, Nunberg said. For comparison, the 2016 presidential candidate, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, took one day to raise $1 million. “Everything Elon touches turns to gold,” said Nunberg.

After the Twitter argument, DeSantis moved to Fox News, where he has been a frequent guest, mostly avoiding other networks. “Fox News is not going to crash during this interview,” show host Trey Gowdy joked to DeSantis when he joined the show.

“This broke the Twitter space, we’re really stoked with the enthusiasm,” said DeSantis, before moving on to his campaign message. At the Mark Levin show, where he went next, Levin said at the end that there were some technical difficulties because so many listeners tuned in. Some of DeSantis’ responses were jagged towards the end of the thread.

Despite the technical glitches, DeSantis made it clear that he would return to Twitter.

“We should do it again, I thought it was fun,” said DeSantis at the end of the event. “This is a great platform.”

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