Well, it must have seemed like a good idea at the time.
Ron DeSantis launching his presidential campaign through a friendly Twitter chat with Elon Musk – what could go wrong?
After a minute or so, the whole thing crashed, and for the next half hour, as their voices would come back and then quickly cut off, media pundits posted tweets filled with mockery and ridicule.
For Musk, it had to be a humiliation as his hype balloon burst, the servers crashing under the weight of a half-million users.
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DeSantis had to be livid, knowing full well that the botched event would become a metaphor for his White House kickoff.
Finally, after an excruciating half hour, Twitter got a livestream up – but lost half its audience in the process.
Once their voices could actually be heard again, DeSantis and Musk heaped praise on each other – and spent much of their time bashing the media.
The governor praised the billionaire as a free-speech advocate. Musk hailed DeSantis for reopening Florida during the pandemic despite fierce criticism from the press.
Musk told DeSantis there were “no shortage of hit pieces on you in the press.”
“The legacy media, these corporations, they’re in their little bubble,” the governor agreed.
“They have become totally hysterical,” Musk chimed in.
Asked about the banning of books in Florida schools, the governor called that a “hoax…What you see is the left and the media colluding on this.”
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Musk did allow a few other questions, but all from conservative DeSantis supporters.
The session amounted to a pretty robust endorsement from the man who runs Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter and has soured on Donald Trump.
DeSantis avoids most of the mainstream media, which he views with disdain, so a conversation with Musk, as opposed to a journalist, was low risk (except for the technical side). After that he appeared on Fox with former Republican congressman Trey Gowdy.
If there is a downside to the Musk embrace, it’s that DeSantis may be asked about the owner’s most controversial or offensive tweets. But that would seem a small price to pay.
Perhaps DeSantis advisers persuaded him that a speech at a rally would fall flat, since the Florida governor isn’t known as a great orator, and a smaller event would have to involve a lot of handshaking along a rope line.
Trump said on his social media site that DeSantis “needs a personality transplant,” and in a statement his campaign said: “Announcing on Twitter is perfect for Ron DeSantis. This way he doesn’t have to interact with people and the media can’t ask him any questions.”
The Washington Post, with a definite viewpoint, said in a news story: “The launch underscores DeSantis’s embrace of conservative influencers as he looks to bypass the mainstream media he derides. It also aligns him with one of the world’s richest people — a polarizing figure who shares DeSantis’s disdain for the media and liberal critics and has quickly become one of the most prominent, provocative voices on the right.”
But National Review says: “While Elon Musk may be utterly loathed by activist left-wingers, he is not thought of nearly so negatively by the country as a whole. To the greater public, he’s the richest man in the world, who makes electric cars, launches rockets, and recently bought a social media website. That is all. They are not as upset about ‘Twitter Blue’ as the Left seems to be. They don’t even know what it is.”
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DeSantis is widely acknowledged to be the principal challenger to Trump, but the media have really turned on him as the former president has built a 30- to 40-point lead in the national polls. The DeSantis camp believes that national polls are meaningless and that their man has high favorables in the early states.
As Rich Lowry writes in the New York Times – under the headline “He’s Not Dead Yet” – “It’s never a good sign when political analysts are writing ‘What Went Wrong?’ stories about your presidential campaign before it’s announced.”
The piece says DeSantis “still has the makings of a strong campaign,” with ample fundraising, but that the governor has to find a way to tell a personal story and not just talk policy.
Ron DeSantis did talk a lot about policy – that is, when he finally got to talk.