‘It turned out to be a mistake’: Botched rollout puts DeSantis on his heels
The stream stopped, connections were cut, hosts seemed confused. It was a bad omen. It was also a black mark on the candidate’s supposed trademarks – expert organization and comfort with the vanguard of modern media.
“It was bold. It turned out to be a mistake,” radio host Erick Erickson told supporters of the incident. “It’s salvageable. But it’s a reminder that some things must be under the complete control of the candidate, especially on the day of the launch.
The risk for DeSantis is the prospect that the botched rollout will form a narrative and cut the very argument he presents to Republican primary voters — that he is a competent alternative to former President Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency. The governor has presented himself in public speeches and private donor meetings as a controlled, undramatic politician who embraces many of Trump’s policy positions without the trademark unpredictability. But on Wednesday, DeSantis — who fiercely values control — was the picture of mess.
The Governor’s team was quick to spin the moment in 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. Of time.
“Hi this is Governor Ron DeSantis. I’m running for President of the United States to lead our great American comeback. We announced this on Twitter spaces earlier 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 also served as a fundraising pitch.
But in conservative press corners, including outlets seeking an alternative to Trump, there was little willingness to avoid the face factory. Philip Klein of the National Review called it a “disaster”.
The Florida governor entered the presidential race on Wednesday with much fanfare — polls showing him in second place, substantial sums in supportive PACs and a record Republican achievement. But his unconventional decision to pitch his bid in a live Twitter chat went awry when the conversation didn’t take off for more than 30 minutes, leaving supporters and listeners wondering when the governor would actually announce his campaign.
Once he got started, the nearly hour-long event gave DeSantis a chance to deliver his stump speech and answer easy questions from allies like Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky. ) On the most controversial aspects of his dossier. She, too, despite all her problems, seemed to arouse interest. His campaign spokesperson, Bryan Griffin, said the team raised $1 million online in an hour and top advisor Gennera Peck tweeted that more than 700,000 people had joined the virtual rollout – more than triple the more than 200,000 people in the room later in the discussion.
But it also invited an onslaught of mockery, including from Trump.
“Glitch. Technical issues. Uncomfortable silences. Complete launch failure. And that’s just the candidate! a Trump campaign spokesperson 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 make a reappearance on Twitter on Wednesday night. It did not materialize. Instead, Trump watched DeSantis’ rollout with some of his advisers, who reveled in the technical difficulties and mocked the DeSantis team publicly and privately.
At the end of the night, the Trump campaign released a video comparing Trump’s announcement at Mar-a-Lago with the static and awkward start to the DeSantis Twitter event and a flurry of statements on everything from the file of the governor of Florida to the charges that his team brushed aside. line from a Trump State of the Union address.
“Ron DeSantis’ botched campaign announcement is yet another example of why he’s just not ready for the job,” said Karoline Leavitt, spokeswoman for super pro-Trump PAC MAGA Inc., in a press release.
DeSantis’ original plan was for him to do his first Fox News post-announcement interview with Tucker Carlson, according to two people familiar with his plans. When the Fox News host was fired, the governor kept his commitment to the network. He appeared with replacement host Trey Gowdy at 8 p.m., although the cable news channel has seen evening ratings plummet since Carlson’s ousting.
A DeSantis political operation official said he could not confirm planning details.
Gowdy poked fun at Twitter’s technical issues at the start of the interview, but also covered substantive issues with DeSantis, such as inflation, China, abortion and immigration. DeSantis said he would declare a national emergency on his first day in office and “mobilize all forces” to rebuild the border wall. He spoke of his intention to fire FBI Director Chris Wray and revamp the “armed” Justice Department. Neither Gowdy nor DeSantis spoke of Trump by name.
As the night wore on, some Republicans rushed to DeSantis’ defense.
“He was coherent, passionate and modern. He stood up for what he believes in,” said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and DeSantis supporter. “DeSantis announced it this way: future-focused and bypassing mainstream media.”
Meanwhile, an attendee at a DeSantis donor event in Miami said the room was unmoved by the launch issues. Instead, they focused on raising a significant amount of money that would put these issues on the back burner. At the Four Seasons Hotel, they gathered to a packed house, munching on bites, mingling with prominent figures from the governor’s campaign, including former Nevada Senate candidate Adam Laxalt. DeSantis is expected to speak to the group tomorrow and there is also expected to be a political briefing from top advisers.
But the incident seemed likely to linger long after launch day, serving as a cudgel not only to rival Republicans but also to Democrats in the run-up to the general election.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression!” tweeted political media consultant Lis Smith, a Democrat. “That’s why most presidents worry about the smallest details of a launch – the venue, the music, the plan, the program, the speech, etc. ”
Alex Isenstadt and Daniel Lippman contributed reporting.