Speed Reads

'Failure to Launch'

Ron DeSantis 'glitchy' presidential campaign launch mercilessly mocked after Twitter failures

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) officially launched his 2024 presidential campaign Wednesday night on Twitter Spaces, in an audio-only event co-hosted by Twitter owner Elon Musk and tech investor David Sacks. It did not go well. The first 20 minutes were a stream of tech glitches, dropped users, mood music, and audio problems. And when DeSantis finally spoke, about half an hour past the scheduled start time, in a third Spaces room, the original crowd of about 600,000 people trying to log in had dropped by more than half.

DeSantis' rivals were merciless. "Glitchy. Tech issues. Uncomfortable silences. A complete failure to launch. And that's just the candidate!" a spokesperson for former President Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner, texted reporters. Mark Harris, lead strategist for Nikki Haley's super PAC, hit the same note: "Failed soft launch? Check. Failed announcement? Double check. We look forward to Ron DeSantis' failed campaign."

President Biden tweeted "this link works" above his campaign fundraising site and posted a highlight reel of DeSantis talking about abortion and Social Security. "No matter what happens, you can hear Ron DeSantis' agenda loud and clear," Biden wrote. 

Musk, DeSantis, and the DeSantis campaign tried to put a positive spin on what The Associated Press and Fox News both called the "disastrous" announcement, suggesting Twitter's servers weren't up to the throng of people interested in hearing DeSantis speak. The DeSantis campaign also said it raised $1 million in the first hour of the event. And when MSNBC's Kyle Griffin tweeted out a list of reactions from major news organizations — "fiasco," "meltdown," "awkward," "horrendous" — Musk responded: "I call it 'massive attention.' Top story on Earth today."

"I'm sorry but this is an astoundingly humiliating degree of incompetence" by Musk and DeSantis, MSNBC's Chris Hayes tweeted. "Unspinnable failure. Total and complete. Fully public." Hayes laughed at a sampling of the tech issues on his show Wednesday night: "Trump had the golden escalator, Ron DeSantis got the world's most embarrassing 404 error." The Bulwark's Tim Miller called the announcement "just an epic disaster." 

"There's no sugarcoating the first leg of DeSantis's launch: It was a train wreck," Shelby Talcott and Benjy Sarlin report at Semafor. Even "when DeSantis finally went on, he delivered a monotonous speech to the diminished audience before joining a podcast-like discussion with his hosts and handpicked friendly guests on topics like education, immigration, Bitcoin and Twitter." 

DeSantis' opening remarks "sounded like he was reading a bad script," and the rest of the event "felt more like a right-wing podcast than a mainstream campaign launch," Matt Lewis agreed at The Daily Beast. Look, "tech glitches happen," but "the big threat for DeSantis is that this becomes a sort of metaphor for a campaign that, even before the failure to launch, already felt like it had exploded on the launch pad."