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.
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.
“I am running for president of the United States to lead our great American comeback,” DeSantis said.
The audio-only event, which ultimately lasted over an hour, featured a string of known conservative media figures and operatives praising DeSantis and then posing questions aimed at many of the candidate’s favorite talking points.
Dana Loesch, a former spokesperson for the National Rifle Association who is now a radio host, asked DeSantis about pushing back on gun control efforts. She said she planned to vote for DeSantis. The questions and answers stuck closely to culture war topics that are expected to resonate with conservative voters ahead of what's likely to be a brutal primary.
DeSantis said he wanted to revisit the government’s response to Covid, in particular mask mandates and school closings; pushed back on claims about book bans while touting his work to ban the teaching of ideas related to critical race theory; and even discussed bitcoin regulation — a topic that the host David Sacks said would resonate with Twitter’s community of bitcoin enthusiasts.
Sacks is a major Republican donor who has been openly supportive of DeSantis and is considered to be part of Musk’s inner circle on decisions about Twitter.
DeSantis also touched on what is shaping up to be a thorny issue for his campaign: Disney.
He defended his ongoing battle with the media and entertainment giant, claiming that the company “obviously supported injecting gender ideology in elementary school” and that he had to draw a bright line.
“For 50 years, anytime Disney wanted something in Florida politics, they pretty much got it, but not this time,” he said.
DeSantis' entrance into the race immediately sets up a direct confrontation with former President Donald Trump, who since announcing a third bid for the White House in November has regained his status as the leader of the modern Republican Party.
Voices early in the Twitter Spaces event were openly concerned Trump would take advantage of the early glitches, a notable admission because the event was set up by DeSantis supporters.'
"This is going to be a stain that Trump is going to leverage for at least a few weeks," one person could be heard saying amid the event's early glitches.
As the first Twitter Spaces event kicked off, metrics published by Twitter indicated that more than 600,000 were attempting to listen.
"We’ve got so many people here that I think we are kind of melting the servers," Sacks said at one point.
“We’re reallocating some of the server capability to be able to handle the load here. It’s really going crazy,” Musk said.
By the time DeSantis got the moment his political team had spent weeks negotiating, there were fewer than 70,000 viewers remaining, a significantly smaller audience than is traditional for a major presidential campaign launch.
Trump aides and allies immediately — and gleefully — mocked the Florida governor for the initial tech fiasco.
"Glitchy. Tech issues. Uncomfortable silences. A complete failure to launch. And that’s just the candidate!" Steven Cheung, spokesman for former President Donald Trump’s campaign, told NBC News.
President Joe Biden’s Twitter account posted a link to his own fundraising page, writing, “This link works.”
The DeSantis campaign, however, insisted that the problems showed how many people were flooding Twitter, eager for his campaign.
"Gov. DeSantis broke the internet — that should tell you everything you need to know about the strength of his candidacy," a senior campaign official said.
"Groundbreaking announcement. Internet-breaking excitement," DeSantis campaign spokesman Dave Abrams added.
DeSantis also released a launch video Wednesday evening, saying he was ready to lead a "Great American Comeback."
"Our border is a disaster. Crime infests our cities. The federal government makes it harder for families to make ends meet. And the president flounders," DeSantis said in the spot.
DeSantis' launch remarks also offered a direct critique of the current president, saying Biden "lacks vigor" and "takes his cues from the woke mob."
“Biden has pursued inflationary policies that are hurting working people. We will reverse those policies, and we will build an economy where working American can achieve a good standard of living,” DeSantis said.
In a subsequent interview with Fox News, DeSantis was pressed on what he'd prioritize Day One as president. He said he would support national school choice legislation, and declare a national emergency to "construct the border wall," among other things.
Some conservative Twitter voices were unconvinced by the launch. One account with the handle @catturd2, which has in recent months risen through the ranks of right-wing Twitter and been amplified in the past by Musk and Trump, had a particularly scathing review.
"I left the Space — It was so terrible and boring I couldn’t take it anymore," the account tweeted. "I’m going to go watch some paint dry so I can be more entertained."
Mick Mulvaney, who served as Trump's chief of staff and has since become vocally critical of his former boss, appeared more impressed, tweeting that DeSantis spent "75+ minutes on pure policy."
"Trump could never do that," he tweeted.