Ron DeSantis broke the internet when he announced for president last nigh -- almost literally. We analyzed his decision to make his presidential ambitions official in a Twitter Spaces conversation with Elon Musk yesterday, listing some of the reasons his campaign may have selected that method and venue. But as I also mentioned on the air, the choice also came with some risks, including unpredictability. One of those risks ended up threatening to derail the entire virtual launch event, as massive interest repeatedly crashed the system. Over 20 minutes, the conversation failed to broadcast properly, as well over 600,000 people (or quite a few more, per the campaign below) tuned in for a discussion that wasn't actually happening.
Twitter eventually got the technology squared away, and the session was conducted as originally planned, building the audience back to more than 300,000. This was my initial assessment of the overall episode, offered on the very same platform that led to the rocky rollout:
…Counter-spin will be that overwhelming, unprecedented interest is a good thing. There’s some truth to that. Let’s see some of their metrics on small $ donors etc in the next few days…— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) May 24, 2023
…some of the issues raised were somewhat niche but have impact/currency on the engaged political Right. I’d guess they were betting large majority of this particular audience fits that bill. Too niche for a POTUS announcement event? Maybe. But there’s a GOP primary to be won...— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) May 24, 2023
Final thought, not specific to this Twitter convo, but evident throughout DeSantis’ prepared and extemporaneous remarks: He’s very smart, thorough, strategic, focused on achieving outcomes/winning/advancing the ball. I understand entirely why the Left fears him.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) May 24, 2023
I think there will be a tendency among some to both overplay and underplay the technical snafu. On the latter end, there's no getting around that it was a very public misfire. The media/Trump alliance has been seeding a wishful narrative of DeSantis being finished before he even got started, and this mishap played into those intended perceptions. And because DeSantis' brand and message centers so heavily around being a competent winner who gets things done, it must have caused him intense heartburn to sit there for one excruciating minute after another, unable to even get a word in. These were literally the opening minutes of the very first event of his presidential campaign. In that respect, rolling the dice on the out-of-the-box format he selected came up snake eyes. It was not the winning, professional first impression the campaign was hoping for, and regardless of whose fault it was behind the scenes, it amounted to a highly visible dropped ball.
On the other hand, there is truth to the observation that interest was demonstrably immense. If Team DeSantis can parlay the mishap into a robust out-of-the-gate performance in web traffic, email sign-ups and especially small-dollar fundraising, they can can chalk this up to the old adage that all publicity is good publicity. They're certainly leaning into it, which is both smart and, frankly, unavoidable:
Just got off the phone with @elonmusk + @DavidSacks -- heard behind the scenes details from Twitter as they handled the nearly 1 million people trying to get into the Spaces room.— Generra Peck (@GenerraPeck) May 25, 2023
They had more than 700k in the room to start with hundreds of thousands trying to get in...had to…
Meanwhile, within just three hours of his announcement video going live across social media, it had blown past six million views on Twitter alone. It's only raced much higher since then, as you can see:
I’m running for president to lead our Great American Comeback. pic.twitter.com/YmkWkLaVDg— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantis) May 24, 2023
As I mentioned in the thread above, while some critics will have a field day with the technological difficulties, normal voters won't know or care about the delay. Very Online and hardcore political addicts (like yours truly) will analyze it to death, but it's not a huge deal in the scheme of things. It's not the 'best foot forward' the DeSantis campaign was aiming for, especially given the nature of the prevailing conventional wisdom right now. But the governor's bid will not succeed or fail based on a few chaotic minutes. By contrast, DeSantis' wide-ranging and lengthy interview on Fox News the following hour was smooth much more traditional, and the governor performed capably. Guest host Trey Gowdy's biographical intro of DeSantis was succinct and quite effective. The campaign should try to get this information (if not this clip) in front of as many voters as possible:
The next few weeks matter a lot for DeSantis, and he'll need to work hard, resonate, and gain ground into the summer -- especially in key early states. If he can do that, this can become a feisty, winnable battle for him. If not, the preemptive narrative could morph into reality. I'll leave you with a piece of commentary from the GOP frontrunner last evening:
Yah let’s vote for this pic.twitter.com/wFT1a3IwuS— Marcus (@MarcusHUSA) May 24, 2023