Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was aiming for an explosive start to his presidential campaign when he partnered with Elon Musk to announce the news on Twitter. Instead, the glitch-filled interview took around 20 minutes to launch, with technical errors interrupting the proceedings again and again.
While intended to signal an unconventional start to his campaign, the messy rollout Wednesday on Twitter Spaces was met with ridicule online from DeSantis’s political opponents and meme-savvy critics.
Musk, the billionaire owner of Twitter, had dubbed the event a historic first a day prior. The DeSantis team, meanwhile, built anticipation with sleek videos and early endorsements. But by the time the first attempt at a live announcement was scrapped and a new one began, a wide swath of listeners gave up. When DeSantis made the announcement, only 150,000 people were logged on, the Washington Post reported.
Analysts soon deemed the kickoff event a failure.
“On the theater of the presidential launch ... he really failed on that front. This kind of took over a moment that was supposed to be about Ron DeSantis and made it about Elon Musk and made it about Twitter,” Astead Herndon, a political reporter at the New York Times, said on CNN Thursday.
The DeSantis team attempted to spin the narrative, sending out a campaign email that claimed the “conversation garnered so much attention that DeSantis literally broke the Internet.” But as Dan Primack, business editor at Axios pointed out, “the e-mail was sent via the Internet.”
The size of the Twitter Spaces audience was mocked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday, with the hosts pointing to events where the size of the audience far exceeded that for DeSantis, including “April the Giraffe gives birth” (1.2 million people) and “Buzzfeed makes watermelon explode” (807,000 people).
Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s “All In,” likened the rollout to the time Musk unveiled the new Tesla Cybertruck and smashed two of its supposedly “bulletproof glass” windows during the demonstration.
Other presidential contenders reveled in the bumpy start to DeSantis’s campaign. President Biden took a dig by tweeting “this link works,” and sharing the website to donate to his reelection. Republican candidates Asa Hutchinson, Nikki Haley, and Donald Trump also got their licks in.
Media outlets were equally critical in their assessments. The Washington Post called it an “awkward start.” The New York Times said it was “the conference call from hell.” Politico called it “botched.”
The conservative National Review called the launch a “disaster,” and criticized DeSantis for jumping into a “standard stump speech,” rather than taking advantage of the informal forum. A Fox News homepage headline likewise deemed the “much-hyped Ron DeSantis presidential announcement a disaster on Twitter.”
On Twitter, DeSantis was given no mercy. Memes abounded and #DeSaster quickly became a trending topic.
Gabriel Sherman, special correspondent at Vanity Fair, said the “DeSantis twitter flop is the digital equivalent of Dukakis in the tank ad,” which isn’t the first time the Florida Republican has drawn the comparison.
Some likened the launch to Musk’s SpaceX rocket exploding. Others made “Failure to Launch” movie posters. Another poked fun at DeSantis’s ongoing battle with Disney, saying its “broadcasts don’t crash in the middle.”
“Russia, if you’re listening, Ronnie would like a do-over,” journalist Dan Rather tweeted.
See more reactions below:
Daily Mail right now: pic.twitter.com/PNRMlsqJnu— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) May 24, 2023
This was by far the biggest boat ever launched and it performed great after some scaling issues. https://t.co/W99X034I0Y pic.twitter.com/rUPhFtsWDF— Jason Goldman (@goldman) May 25, 2023
Now this is some good mocking. #DeSaster pic.twitter.com/oobNnvHhlZ— Skyleigh Heinen (@Sky_Lee_1) May 25, 2023
Failure to Launch Crashed #DeSaster pic.twitter.com/DYDGkM3NNB— David Wolf (@DavidWolf777) May 24, 2023
Ron DeSantis’ campaign launch: pic.twitter.com/qzOiO6h6gi— Sam Alberti (@sam_alberti) May 24, 2023
"Servers are straining somewhat" -- Elon Musk on his Twitter Space with Ron DeSantis pic.twitter.com/XOm6jcX8G2— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 24, 2023
Shannon Larson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.