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DeSantis’ launch produces unforgettable — yet unintended — moment

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Ron DeSantis in Las Vegas on Nov. 19, 2022.
Ron DeSantis in Las Vegas on Nov. 19, 2022. Wade Vandervort / AFP - Getty Images file

If it’s THURSDAY… Ron DeSantis’ campaign launch via Twitter melts down over technical difficulties… Rival campaigns mock DeSantis’ glitched launch… Fitch Ratings warns it could downgrade U.S. credit rating if a deal can’t be reached to raise the debt limit, NBC’s Kristen Welker reports... President Biden, from the White House at 1:45 pm ET, announces his nomination of Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. to serve as the nation’s next chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff… And Jan. 6 rioter who put his feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk gets sentenced to 4.5 years in prison.

But FIRST... Presidential launches produce unforgettable moments.

Barack Obama addressing thousands in frigid Springfield, Ill. Donald Trump descending that golden escalator. Even Joe Biden rallying in all-important Philadelphia.

The best thing we can say about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ launch is that it, too, produced an unforgettable moment — just not in the way the candidate or his campaign intended.

“The start of a much-anticipated Twitter event in which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis planned to announce his 2024 Republican presidential bid was repeatedly disrupted Wednesday when Twitter’s servers apparently could not handle the surge in traffic,” NBC’s David Ingram and Matt Dixon write.

“The app crashed repeatedly as Twitter users tried to listen to the event where Twitter owner Elon Musk joined DeSantis for the announcement. DeSantis eventually was able to speak, about 20 minutes after the scheduled start, after Musk closed the initial Twitter Spaces event and started a second one on the app. That space attracted about 161,000 users, according to Twitter’s public-facing data, as DeSantis read a short speech.”

Presidential announcements matter because they tell voters something about the candidates (family, background, experience) and their vision for the country.

Unfortunately for DeSantis, we got very little of that last night — thanks to the technical glitches and all the attention on Elon Musk.

(And we have to ask: Did the idea of announcing with Musk come from the campaign or the candidate? Because if it was a campaign official, wouldn’t that person already be thrown under the bus?)

To be sure, DeSantis remains Donald Trump’s strongest challenger. While the national polls show Trump with a massive lead, they also find some 80% of Republicans saying they would either support or consider DeSantis, suggesting a high upside for the Florida governor.

And to be sure, let’s not forget that Trump’s own announcement when he descended that golden escalator got mocked, too.

Then again, Trump didn’t trip.

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 34%

That’s how many Americans approve of President Joe Biden’s handling of the debt-ceiling issue in a new Monmouth University poll. Fifty-five percent of people surveyed in that poll disapprove of Biden’s approach to the issue, which is still less than the 60% of Americans who disapprove of the way congressional Republicans are handling the problem.

A CNN poll found similar results — 59% of people say Biden hasn’t “acted responsibly” in the fight over the debt ceiling, and 64% say congressional Republicans haven’t acted responsibly.

Both polls found Biden’s overall approval rating under water, with 41% of those polled by Monmouth approving of the president’s handling of his job and 40% of those polled by CNN saying the same.

Read more on the Meet the Press Blog.

Other numbers to know

83: The “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” Tina Turner’s age when she died yesterday.

2: The number of House Democrats — Jared Golden of Maine and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington — who joined House Republicans in voting to block President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan.

1,300%: The amount by which Google searches from people who seem to be questioning their gender identity have risen since 2004.

At least 12: The number of subpoenas a Texas House investigative panel issued since April in an investigation into multiple crimes state Attorney General Ken Paxton allegedly committed while in office.

3: The number of former Mississippi police officers who were indicted Wednesday on charges related to the death of a Black man who was pinned down and shocked by stun guns during an arrest on New Year’s Eve.

43%: The portion of books requested to be removed from schools or classrooms across 153 school districts last school year that contained LGBTQ characters or themes, a Washington Post analysis found.

140 miles per hour: The speed of winds that whipped through Guam as super typhoon Mawar passed over the island on Wednesday night, the New York Times reports.  

69%: The share of registered voters who say they were very or somewhat confident their votes in 2022 were accurately counted, per a new survey from the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, Politico reports. 

Eyes on 2024: DeSantis’ rivals relish DeSantis’ rocky rollout

Some of DeSantis’ rivals for the GOP nomination gleefully watched as DeSantis’ Twitter Spaces announcement was mired with technical difficulties. 

Trump took to his Truth Social media platform writing, “Wow. The DeSanctus TWITTER launch is a DISASTER! His whole campaign will be a disaster. WATCH!” And Trump’s team also watched with excitement, sharing images of a glass of wine and a laughing-to-tears emoji, NBC News’ Jonathan Allen reports.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s campaign sent out a press release with the subject line, “There’s Twitter … and There’s New Hampshire,” rounding up her travels in the early primary state. Haley’s spokesman Ken Farnaso tweeted footage of her February launch, writing, “We’re so proud of @TeamHaley and our incredible campaign launch.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson poked fun at the technical glitches by tweeting a link to his campaign fundraising page and writing, “Just like my policies, this link works.” (President Joe Biden’s campaign had the same idea.)

And Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy tweeted that he would also join a Twitter Space hosted by CEO Elon Musk “anytime & no script required.”

The early trolling underscores how DeSantis is becoming a main target for other GOP presidential candidates who are hesitant to directly attack Trump. NBC News’ Allen, Natasha Korecki and Olympia Sonnier write that DeSantis is set to face attacks both from those rivals and from Trump himself.

It’s not yet clear if or how the botched launch could affect DeSantis’ standing in the race or his early fundraising. DeSantis’ campaign spokesman Bryan Griffin did tweet that the campaign raised $1 million online in the first hour after DeSantis announced he was running. 

In other campaign news…

One thing just became easier for DeSantis: The Florida governor signed a bill Wednesday to clarify that those running for president and vice president aren’t subject to the state’s resign-to-run law

A busy day for Haley: Former UN Ambassador and presidential hopeful Nikki Haley said Tuesday in New Hampshire that she’d back a federal abortion ban as president if it could get through Congress; talked to USA Today about how she can connect with suburban women voters that may struggle to support Trump; booked a CNN town hall; and criticized a transgender influencer as “a guy dressed up like a girl, mocking women.” 

Blowing the whistle: CBS News spoke to the IRS employee who is seeking whistleblower status about the probe into Hunter Biden, the president’s son. Meanwhile, the White House says Republicans are playing politics with their different probe, pointing to House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer’s comments to the media. 

Ridin’ with Biden: CNBC reports on Biden building out his joint fundraising committee to raise funds from every state Democratic Party committee. 

No timeline: NBC News’ Julie Tsirkin and Liz Brown-Kaiser interviewed Arizona Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in Tucson, where she called immigration her top priority and wouldn’t lay out a timeline for deciding if she’ll run for re-election. Meanwhile, “Replace Sinema,” the group that’s pushing for Sinema to be replaced by a Democrat, announced it’s backing Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego’s Senate bid. 

She doesn’t give a Schiff: Politico reports on how Democratic Rep. Katie Porter is telling activists that she can handle the deep war chest of one of her top rivals in California’s Senate race, fellow Rep. Adam Schiff. 

Competition arrives: Michigan State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh is running for Senate as a Democrat, The Detroit News reports, in a primary where Rep. Elissa Slotkin is seen as the frontrunner. 

Thinking about it: Bloomberg Government reports on how Pennsylvania Republican Dave McCormick is weighing another run for Senate with the likelihood that he would have to face state Sen. Doug Mastriano in another high-stakes primary.

He will. Will he? Republican Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs announced that he’s running for Senate, as Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, still remains coy on his plans. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world:

The Department of Homeland Security Wednesday issued a warning for the potential of violence ahead of the coming presidential election cycle.

Three years since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking nationwide protests against racism, police reform advocates are still waiting for federal actions, per the Associated Press.