Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will launch his 2024 presidential campaign during a social media event with Elon Musk on Wednesday night, multiple sources familiar with the matter.
DeSantis will declare he is seeking the Republican nomination during a live, audio-only Twitter Spaces event at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday, the sources said. The Twitter conversation will be moderated by Musk ally David Sacks.
Later Wednesday, DeSantis will appear on Fox News to talk about his campaign. He is also expected to file with the Federal Election Commission this week, which would formally enter him into the 2024 race.
Musk, the high-profile tech billionaire who bought Twitter last year, has said that he intends to back DeSantis in 2024.
But as speculation grew that he was in fact gearing up to run, and as former President Donald Trump and Trump’s political operation unleashed an onslaught of attacks, the governor and his team moved up his timeline even scrapping tentative plans to launch an exploratory committee and moving up a formal announcement date to May rather than June, sources have said.
Separate from his Twitter event Wednesday, DeSantis’ team has also been planning for him to hold an official kickoff in his hometown of Dunedin, outside Tampa, according to sources. That event is tentatively planned to take place the week of Memorial Day, but sources have cautioned that the details could still change.
The move is designed to afford DeSantis control over his announcement as he prepares to battle one of the most pugnacious figures in American politics. And Trump’s team immediately took note.
“This is one of the most out-of-touch campaign launches in modern history. The only thing less relatable than a niche campaign launch on Twitter, is DeSantis’ after party at the uber elite Four Seasons resort in Miami,” said Karoline Leavitt, a spokesperson for MAGA Inc., the pro-Trump super PAC.
For his part, Mr Musk will see this as a coup – he wants big moments to be broadcast live on Twitter. He’s particularly interested in Twitter Spaces, where millions of people can tune into an interview on the platform.
But by seeming to align himself with Mr DeSantis, he may be opening himself up to the criticism that he is turning Twitter into a town hall for conservatives.
Such a close relationship could create pitfalls for the DeSantis campaign too.
Yes, Mr Musk can give Mr DeSantis much needed publicity. But Mr Musk is also, famously, a chaos merchant – someone who is very hard to predict.
He could give support to Mr DeSantis but then take it away – he has the platform to both hype him up but also knock him down.
DeSantis seeks momentum boost
By choosing Twitter to make his own splash, DeSantis appears to be targeting a dramatic moment that could restore a sense of momentum to GOP primary aspirations that were soaring six months ago but that have been undermined by his own missteps and Trump’s recent political rebound.
In embracing Musk, DeSantis is associating himself with a hero of conservatives who have long claimed they are being censored on social media. He’s taking a swipe at Trump, who was banned from tweeting by the company’s previous ownership and has so far preferred the home ground of his own platform, Truth Social, even after Musk restored his account. Trump’s 2016 campaign and entire presidency unfolded in a torrent of stream of consciousness tweets that he used to great effect – even if he left his nation stressed and exhausted.
DeSantis is taking an ostentatious jab at traditional media, which is reviled by many conservatives, by showing he is ready to bypass regular conventions of presidential campaigns. His launch will also create a sharp contrast with Trump’s own rambling, and even boring, campaign opening speech at Mar-a-Lago in November, which lacked any sense of political dynamism.
The Florida governor will also show how far the GOP has traveled from its roots as a bastion of tradition and the extent to which the internet and the fragmentation of the media into partisan blocks has changed presidential campaigns. In 1979, for instance, Ronald Reagan announced his presidential bid with a grandfatherly speech from a cozy study that looked like the inside of a country club. George W. Bush set off on the road to the White House 20 years later from a farm in Iowa. Now the best way to reach the most GOP voters is online.
By breaking the mold of presidential announcements, DeSantis is borrowing from Trump’s unconventional playbook. One lesson of the 45th president’s riotous political career is that anything calculated to offend liberals and mainstream media commentators is often wildly popular with grassroots GOP primary voters.
A shifting balance of conservative media power
The DeSantis announcement will also help enshrine an emerging power shift in conservative media. His choice of Twitter recognizes the importance of the social network to right-wing voters under Musk and may quicken the shift away from Fox News as the most dynamic platform for the new champions of the conservative movement. It comes after the top-rated Fox News host Tucker Carlson said he’d relaunch his show on Twitter after being ousted from Rupert Murdoch’s primetime line-up after the firm paid $787 million to settle a defamation suit linked to its promotion of election lies and misinformation after the 2020 election.
With his appearance, DeSantis is driving home his argument that social media networks have sought to oppress the speech of conservatives – a popular viewpoint on the right. In his autobiography “The Courage to be Free,” DeSantis slammed companies like Facebook and Twitter, under its previous owners, which he said made “censorship decisions that always seem to err on the side of leftist orthodoxy, they distort the American political system because so much political speech now takes place on these supposedly open platforms.”
Still, DeSantis is unlikely to turn his back on Fox, which has offered him plentiful air time – a possible sign the Murdoch family is beginning to tire of the ex-president.
The DeSantis launch strategy will not come without risks. The untamed environment of Twitter and his association with Musk threaten to undermine the case DeSantis has been implicitly making to Republican voters – that he can offer a more stable and disciplined style of leadership than that shown by Trump in his tempestuous White House term.
And by avoiding the kind of big, staged political announcement in front of a large crowd, DeSantis risks emboldening Trump’s mocking critique that the Florida governor is draining support by the day, following polls that show him falling further behind the former president, albeit ahead of candidates like South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
The virtual announcement could also fuel claims by Trump that his one-time protégé, whom he now accuses of betrayal for running for president, lacks the political skills to compete on a less controlled stage. A pro-Trump super PAC mocked DeSantis ahead of his online announcement, calling it “one of the most out-of-touch campaign launches in modern history.”
“The only thing less relatable than a niche campaign launch on Twitter, is DeSantis’ after party at the uber elite Four Seasons resort in Miami,” MAGA Inc., the Trump-aligned super PAC, said in a statement Tuesday.
People familiar with the DeSantis campaign blueprint, however, indicated the Florida governor would soon launch a relentless blitz of campaign appearances in key swing states, intended to contrast his energy with that of his older rivals, Trump and President Joe Biden.
Trump’s team and his allies are planning an aggressive operation to try to drown out the DeSantis launch on Wednesday. MAGA Inc. is already slamming the Florida governor for his early support of the Covid-19 vaccine during the pandemic as it seeks to undermine his credibility among conservatives who balked at government health advice.
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