Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was set to announce his highly-anticipated presidential bid during a Twitter spaces session Wednesday.
Then Twitter broke.
The app repeatedly crashed Wednesday night as thousands of listeners attempted to tune in to hear the Florida governor announce he was entering the race for the GOP presidential nomination. Thirty minutes into the event, DeSantis was finally able to begin speaking.
The response on the social media site was swift.
President Joe Biden was quick to chime in, tweeting: “This link works,” followed by a link to the president’s campaign donation site.
A spokesperson for former President Donald Trump responded: “Glitchy. Tech issues. Uncomfortable silences. A complete failure to launch. And that’s just the candidate!”
The spectacle represented a major embarrassment for both DeSantis and Elon Musk, Twitter’s relatively new owner, one that could haunt the former as he embarks on a bid to win the GOP’s nomination and the latter as he tries to position himself as a political kingmaker in the new media landscape.
DeSantis was slated to do additional interviews on more traditional mediums Wednesday night, where he will likely face questions about his launch on Twitter.
When the event got up and running, DeSantis addressed his decision to make his announcement via the virtual platform.
“Well, when COVID [happened] I had to make decisions about, do you go with the crowd? Or do you look at the data yourself and cut against the grain. And I chose to do the latter,” he told David Sacks, the outspoken venture capitalist moderating the conversation.
Musk has used Twitter Spaces before as a way to directly reach his 140 million followers and avoid going through outside media. However, his Twitter Spaces — which have drawn tens of thousands of listeners in the past — have been known to shut down suddenly due to technical glitches. Ever since Musk bought Twitter last October, he’s laid off nearly two-thirds of the employees, including large swaths of engineering staff, leading to shutdowns and regular technical problems on the platform.
Wednesday’s Twitter Spaces marks the first time the audio-only feature on the platform has been used for a presidential launch. Spaces first publicly launched in May 2021 and mimicked the audio-only app ClubHouse that launched in April 2020, but has faced a shrinking user base in recent years.
Sacks called the event “the biggest room that’s probably ever been assembled online.” The number of viewers fluctuated throughout the conversation, hitting at least 682,000 at one point, but holding mostly between 200,000 and 300,000 later on.
DeSantis largely kept the conversation to his record as governor — talking points he’s touted during de-facto campaign events across the country.
The 44-year-old former congressmember has made several trips to battleground and early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, and he’s dabbled in international politicking with stops in Japan, South Korea, Israel and the United Kingdom.
The conservative governor has repeatedly made headlines for pushing conservative legislation, and for his war against “woke” ideals, punctuated by his ongoing legal battle with Disney.
But it’s still unclear whether he has the power to defeat the current Republican front-runner: Trump. Polls show DeSantis lagging well behind the former president, though ahead of most other GOP hopefuls.
DeSantis has mostly refrained from direct attacks against Trump, opting for thinly veiled shots instead. As a New York grand jury weighed charges against Trump over his alleged role in a scheme to cover up extramarital affairs, DeSantis took a swipe at him, saying didn’t know “what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.”
And when Trump canceled a campaign stop in Iowa, DeSantis swooped in — visiting a bar in the town where his soon-to-be GOP rival no-showed.
Meridith McGraw and Rebecca Kern contributed to this story.
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