Awkward Silence: Ron DeSantis’s Bold Twitter Gambit That Flopped

It was the announcement not heard ’round the world.

Ron DeSantis plotted to open his presidential campaign early Wednesday evening with a pioneering social media gambit, introducing himself during an audio-only Twitter forum with Elon Musk. His 2024 effort began instead with a moment of silence. Then several more.

A voice cut in, then two — Mr. Musk’s? — only to disappear again.

“Now it’s quiet,” someone whispered. This was true.

“We got so many people here that we are kind of melting the servers,” said David Sacks, the nominal moderator, “which is a good sign.” This was not true.

Soon, all signs were bad. Hold music played for a spell. Some users were summarily booted from the platform, where hundreds of thousands of accounts had gathered to listen.

“The servers are straining somewhat,” Mr. Musk said at one point, perhaps unaware that his mic was hot, at least briefly.

For 25 minutes, the only person unmistakably not talking (at least on a microphone) was Mr. DeSantis.

The Florida governor’s chosen rollout venue was always going to be a risk, an aural gamble on Mr. Musk, a famously capricious and oxygen-stealing co-star, and the persuasive powers of the governor’s own disembodied voice. (“Whiny,” Donald J. Trump has called him.)

But the higher-order downsides proved more relevant. Twitter’s streaming tool, known as Spaces, has been historically glitchy. Executive competence, core to the DeSantis campaign message, was conspicuously absent. And for a politician credibly accused through the years of being incorrigibly online — a former DeSantis aide said he regularly read his Twitter mentions — the event amounted to hard confirmation, a would-be signal of zeitgeisty instincts devolving instead into a conference call from hell.

“You can tell from some of the mistakes that it’s real,” Mr. Musk said.

At 6:26, Mr. DeSantis finally announced himself, long after his campaign had announced his intentions, reading from a script that often parroted an email sent to reporters more than 20 minutes earlier.

“Well,” he opened, “I am running for president of the United States to lead our great American comeback.”

After ticking through a curated biography that noted his military background and his “energetic” bearing, Mr. DeSantis stayed on the line, where Mr. Sacks acknowledged the mess.

“Thank you for putting up with these technical issues,” he said. “What made you want to kind of take the chance of doing it this way?”

Mr. DeSantis swerved instantly to his Covid-era stewardship of Florida, where he said he had made decisions that “cut against the grain.”

Matt Flegenheimer is a reporter covering national politics. He started at The Times in 2011 on the Metro desk covering transit, City Hall and campaigns. @mattfleg

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