Ron DeSantis already in fightback mode after campaign launch ‘broke the internet’

Ron DeSantis has made light of his glitchy campaign launch on Twitter on Wednesday - Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service
Ron DeSantis has made light of his glitchy campaign launch on Twitter on Wednesday - Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service

Ron DeSantis has launched a fightback, saying he “broke the internet” after his presidential campaign launch on Twitter was marred by technical glitches.

The Florida governor said the repeated crashing of the social media network during his announcement on Wednesday night was evidence of voter enthusiasm for his White House run.

In a later fundraising video, he said: “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 … and it broke the internet because so many people were excited about being on the Twitter space.”

Mr DeSantis then appealed to supporters to also “break” a fundraising website by donating. His campaign said he raised $1 million (£810,000) in the first hour after announcing his candidacy.

They also said one million people had either listened to, or tried to gain access, to the Twitter launch event, which led to it repeatedly crashing.

The technical problems overshadowed a conversation with Elon Musk in which the Florida governor set out his policies in detail.

Mr DeSantis described how he had broken with Washington orthodoxy over the response to the pandemic, and pushed back against progressive ideology.

He also pressed the case that he was well-placed to win a general election against Joe Biden, and could then get things done in office.

Mr DeSantis said: “There is no substitute for victory. We must end the culture of losing that has infected the Republican Party in recent years. We must look forward, not backwards. No more excuses. We’ve got to get this one done.”

He added: “The woke mind virus is basically a form of Cultural Marxism. At the end of the day, it’s an attack on the truth, and because it’s a war on truth, I think we have no choice but to wage a war on woke.”

Following the Twitter debacle, Mr DeSantis told Fox News the criticism would not affect him.

He said: “You can call me whatever you want, just call me a winner. There will be slings and arrows. I’m a big boy, I can take it.”

Mr Musk said his Twitter interview was the “top story on Earth” that day.

He added: “I call it ‘massive attention’.”

Ron DeSantis announcing his 2024 presidential campaign on Twitter - AFP
Ron DeSantis announcing his 2024 presidential campaign on Twitter - AFP

In a series of interviews on Thursday, Mr DeSantis defended his decision to announce on Twitter.

He said: “We felt that there would be a lot of buzz about it. And I think that was probably the biggest story in the world yesterday. And so hopefully we’ll get some people interested in our campaign who may not have been otherwise.”

Mr DeSantis added: “I think a lot of what he [Mr Trump] is doing is showing everybody that he understands that I’ve got a good chance to beat him, because he doesn’t criticise anybody else now. It’s only me.”

Mr Trump said he had tuned in to Mr DeSantis’s launch, adding: “I tried for the first half-hour. After that, everybody just turned it off. I think he had a rough opening.”

Next week, Mr DeSantis will return to traditional campaigning, heading for the early-voting primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

He will make speeches and hold fireside chats in a four-day trip taking in a dozen cities and towns from May 30 to June 2.

Generra Peck, his campaign manager, said: “Our campaign is committed to putting in the time to win these early nominating states.

“No one will work harder than Governor DeSantis to share his vision with the country. He has only begun to fight.”

As he begins his campaign for the Republican nomination, Mr DeSantis is over 30 points behind Donald Trump in an average of recent polls.

He has, so far, mostly ignored Mr Trump’s litany of attacks against his record and personality.

But Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who was communications director for Marco Rubio’s campaign in 2016, said: “The campaign is about to get a lot more intense.

“He [Mr DeSantis] can’t just lay low in Tallahassee [the Florida capital] signing bills. Now he has to hit the campaign trail, take media questions and punch back at his opponents.”

Mr DeSantis, without mentioning Mr Trump by name, did suggest that all candidates should take part in the planned Republican primary debates, which the former president has threatened to boycott.

The Florida governor said: “Nobody’s entitled to anything in this world.”

Mr DeSantis later indicated he would, as president, consider pardoning Mr Trump if his rival were to be charged over the 2021 US Capitol riot.

He told a radio show: "On day one I will have folks that will get together and look at all these [Jan 6] cases."

Mr DeSantis avoided directly committing to pardoning Mr Trump but left open the possibility, saying his review would include cases "no matter how small or how big."

Mr Trump is currently facing a Justice Department investigation but has not been charged over the riot.

Meanwhile, Never Back Down, the well-funded political action committee backing Mr DeSantis, is set to ramp up attacks on Mr Trump.

It will focus on policy differences between the two candidates, arguing that Mr Trump has “lurched Left” on some issues, including abortion.

David Polyansky, a senior adviser to Never Back Down, said: “We’re going to amplify him [Mr DeSantis} and his voice and, when necessary, contrast with the former president. Right now that contrast is, really, one is lurching Left and one is fighting.”

Mr DeSantis recently signed a six-week abortion ban in Florida.

Mr Trump has called that “harsh” and refuses to say if he would support a national abortion ban.

The former president and his allies mocked Mr DeSantis’s Twitter launch, calling it a “DeSaster”.

Alex Pfeiffer, spokesman for the Make America Great Again political action committee, said: “Ron DeSantis’s failed campaign launch is just another example that he’s not ready for this critical moment.

“Voters don’t yet know Ron DeSantis. But they’ll find out he has a record of targeting social security, trying to raise taxes, and voting against border wall funding.”

But Dan Eberhart, a donor who previously gave millions of dollars to Mr Trump and is now backing Mr DeSantis, said: “Trump’s fixation with DeSantis is proof that the Florida governor is a serious contender. Trump’s biggest fear just came true.”

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