Yesterday Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) filed the official paperwork with the FEC to make him a candidate for president. It was long expected and now it happened. The filing itself was routine. It's the law, DeSantis is a lawyer, and he did what the law requires.
But the actual "announcement" to the country was—what's the technical term we are looking for?—oh yeah, weird. He "announced" it on a strange Twitter app yesterday evening. We know he is very smart (Yale, Harvard Law School), but we are starting to question his political skills. If he had pre-announced a MAJOR announcement at 9 a.m. at the Florida State Capitol yesterday, every news outlet from The New York Times down to the East Cupcake Middle School Reporter would have covered it and it would have been the only news story of the day. Doing it his way, and late in the day to boot, is not the way to start a campaign against an 800-pound gorilla who is already universally known and the heavy favorite. But what do we know?
If you would like a second technical term—two for the price of one!—the event was also a disaster. Twitter spaces is a beta product, and one that was intended for classroom-size interactions (20-200 people), not TV-level broadcasts. And so, when 500,000 people showed up, the broadcast started out glitchy and then crashed entirely. Elon Musk eventually had to shut down the "meeting" being hosted from his account, and redirected people to David Sacks' account for a restart. Campaign Launch v2.0 managed to reach the finish line, but this time the viewership was only 250,000. We have a lot of computer and networking pros among the readership, and surely all of them are asking the same thing we are: "What the hell kind of computer 'professional' doesn't make absolutely certain their setup is scalable?" Meanwhile, if all DeSantis wanted was a friendly host and an audience of 250,000-500,000 people, he could have joined literally any Fox show. Even the 2:00 p.m. shows pull in that many people, and they don't glitch out, crash, and have to be restarted.
In short, everyone involved in this event ended up with egg on their faces. They are all master spinners, and they expended so much energy spinning last night, they can go ahead and get the piece of pie with their dinner. Musk and Sacks, for their part, asserted that you know you're using a new and exciting technology when you see the bugs and the rough edges. Yeah, sure. Back when Apple issued those laptops that sometimes caught on fire, or those phones that didn't work if you held them the wrong way, what everyone said was: "Wow! This is new and exciting!" Right?
Meanwhile, DeSantis' spin came in the form of a video that was hastily recorded and posted to his Twitter account:
Hi, this is Governor Ron DeSantis. I'm running for president of the United States to lead our great American comeback. We announced that on Twitter spaces earlier tonight and it broke the Internet because so many people were excited about being on the Twitter space.
Uh, huh. Again, even if everything had gone well, DeSantis would have pulled an audience equivalent to your average Fox non-primetime program, or your average Friends rerun, or your average local baseball broadcast. And a lot of the viewers were undoubtedly checking in for lookylou reasons, and not because they're actually interested in what DeSantis is selling. This does not speak to unbridled enthusiasm.
What blowing the campaign announcement does speak to is a guy who's not ready for the big time. This is the subject of most of the commentary, including from DeSantis' rivals and from the right-wing talkers. For example, the staff of The National Review, which should be Ground Zero for DeSantis enthusiasm, produced several critical pieces. That included one from the site's editor, Philip Klein, in which he wrote:
Don't get me wrong; the format is a somewhat interesting way to take a deeper dive into topics. And on the substance, DeSantis obviously had command of what he was saying, and he has a good story to tell. But to the extent that there was any benefit to this, DeSantis could have done it in Week Two of his campaign, or maybe Day Two. But a candidate has only one chance at his announcement. DeSantis enters this race well behind Donald Trump and faces questions about whether he will be able to scale up from being a successful governor to becoming a winning presidential candidate. He doesn't have much margin for error—and his first action as a candidate was a huge mistake.
The other pieces we read were just as negative.
What will the Governor do to try to recover? Undoubtedly, he and his team spent much of last night trying to figure that out. One thing that he is not doing is planning an event in his home town of Dunedin, where he grew up. Politicians often do this to show their roots and how they are "ordinary" folks. In DeSantis case, Dunedin is a smallish, largely white, city in the Tampa Bay area, where his mother worked as a nurse and his father installed boxes for the Nielsen company to monitor television usage for the Nielsen ratings. That actually seems to us as a good fit for the Republican base: a middle class family in a small, white, city. Why wouldn't DeSantis take advantage of this and show "I'm just like you"? It's almost a no-brainer. But he has no plans to do so, at least at present.
Donald Trump is not taking this lying down. In addition to issuing forth with plenty of snark after last night's meltdown, he and his allies are planning a coordinated effort to squash DeSantis like a mosquito before he can even get started. Trump will start posting to his boutique social media site and get Trump-friendly people in the right-o-sphere to start taking down the Florida governor. His super PAC hired a big truck with anti-DeSantis messaging to circle the hotel where DeSantis will gather with donors today. The PAC is also running 60-second digital ads focusing on how DeSantis, a three-term member of the House, was a swamp creature who tried to cut Social Security. In addition, MAGA, Inc. is running an ad targeting DeSantis on his response to COVID. Initially, DeSantis encouraged people to voluntarily get vaccinated although he never supported mandates. But with Trump's base, even politely asking people to get vaccinated so they won't die is a mortal sin. Any suggestion that you believe in science is fatal. Once you believe in vaccinations, it's only a small step to believing in evolution or that the earth is round and revolves around the sun and that is unacceptable. (V & Z)