Here’s my quick take on the DeSantis-Musk campaign launch.
As you must know by now, the thing kicked up with a grandly humiliating tech glitch in which the whole “Twitter Space” crashed. After 20 minutes or so (I didn’t time it) they started a new one — now hosted on Musk’s crony David Sacks’s account as opposed to Musk’s — and that one mostly worked. Huge fail. And that will probably be the headline takeaway for most news organizations. Then DeSantis read a rushed and canned campaign announcement which was basically a mess. But once they got down to talking, DeSantis is fairly good at talking about the issues that matter to him.
The problem is the issues that matter to him. This is a way, way, WAY online-minded campaign. Extremely online, as the cool kids say. The whole conversation is geared to the keyboard warrior world of the far right.
To understand what I mean, think of it this way. What issues will a winning Republican presidential campaign run on in 2024? I’d say, inflation/general economic malaise, the border, weakness abroad, crime. DeSantis, Musk and host David Sacks hit on immigration toward the end, largely through a recognition that it had hardly come up at all. But that was about it. Basically the whole conversation was everyone fluffing Elon Musk for buying Twitter, redeeming the truth tellers who’d been banned under the old Twitter regime. After that it was the mainstream media, DEI and “gender ideology.” The one through-line that united most of these together was relitigating COVID lockdowns.
Most of this is super, super niche stuff. Even debates about COVID, which have a deeper reach, got engaged with in a very niche way. Most people probably wouldn’t even know half the things these guys were talking about. Lots of jargon, very inside stuff.
One way to summarize the conversation was that about 50% of it was various guests saying Elon Musk is totally awesome; the other 40% was DeSantis saying DeSantis is totally awesome. I’m budgeting 10% for times the connection crashed.
Toward the end, when they got deep into the “woke mob,” weaponized banking and more, an excited Sacks said President DeSantis would be a “cool-headed ruthless assassin” destroying the woke mob. To most people that kind of language is a mix of laughable and disturbing. Most people aren’t trying to elect a chief ninja or a mass shooter. It’s the kind of stuff alienated teens say on their gaming Discord channels or maybe 4chan between chugging Sprite.
The upshot is that DeSantis did hit his stride, if those topics are your topics. But they’re not most people’s topics. It’s the lane of people who are really, really into the “Twitter Files” and sharing memes on social media. In any case, most news reports will just focus on the embarrassing tech meltdown at the beginning. So it probably doesn’t even matter.
While all this was happening, conservative commentator Erick Erickson noted that … sure it was an embarrassment but no one ever remembers campaign launches and these things mainly don’t matter by the time you get to the general election. He’s right. The problem for DeSantis is that his campaign will be over by the time you get to the general election. In point of fact it’s already over. He just doesn’t know it yet. Most press can’t face the fact. If he still has a chance, the odds are long. He needs some really strong and game-changing headlines right now. This was definitely not it.