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Don't overplay the DeSantis Twitter glitch.
Three more pertinent elements that will determine whether Ron can dethrone Don.
Put aside the glitch.
Yes, it was the story — an irresistible one, no doubt. One that melded together politics and tech, risk and ego and one of the most important political figures of the moment with the seminal inventor of our era.
Blunder is the ripest headline to chronicle. And the easiest when on tight deadline and the players are rich and powerful and arguably — a bit smug.
Makes fun for (almost) all.
So yes, Ron DeSantis’ Twitter Spaces meltdown matters because the debacle was true and verifiable and happened right before our blue-lit screen-fatigued eyes. It does not require a fact-checker or a judge or the estimations of an imperfect pollster.
It makes it the cleanest political news story to type up and bails journalists out of trying to pinpoint a policy or phrase DeSantis uttered that also carries search engine optimization.
It matters because it showed DeSantis is willing to take a risk — a trait that will be eminently required in his battle royal against Donald Trump. It matters because it cost DeSantis exposure — between 300 and 400,000 listeners dropped off between the 25-minute delay and the re-boot. It matters because it cocooned DeSantis with a negative media flow, which the Biden campaign cashed in on.
Google “DeSantis fail … DeSantis flop … DeSantis disaster”
And look what pops up.
But, heck this is a REPUBLICAN primary for Trump’s sakes. Excessive media backlash might just be worth a few points in Iowa. And DeSantis quickly demonstrated the Spaces saga did nothing to dent his prodigious fundraising.
$8.2 million in 24 hours. Record-breaking. The money box is checked.
Not to mention that big rallies, with venues and signs and lights and production and security costs a campaign money. That Twitter Spaces tab was zilch.
But most crucially, if you think Republican voters — excluding the fanatical online Trump cohort — will use the Spaces crash to discard DeSantis, you’re overplaying the story.
About 24 hours after the limp launch, I phoned Steve Sukup, a friendly Republican from Clear Lake, Iowa who I met during the 2016 campaign when he was supporting Rand Paul. Sukup acknowledged the rickety start but cares much more about how DeSantis performs over the long road.
“He’s willing to try something different and new and reach out to an audience … that we need to get closer to,” said Sukup, who remains uncommitted and open-minded. “There’s always stumbles along the way and hurdles. It’s how you react to it.”
Over in New Hampshire, Juliana Bergeron, a longtime Republican National Committeewoman, was also unmoved by snafu.
“I don’t think the glitch hurt him,” Bergeron told me. “I think he’s gaining in New Hampshire, but … he needs to spend more time here campaigning the old fashioned New Hampshire way: house parties, round tables, walking Main Street, shaking hands.”
You sure can’t shake hands in a Twitter Space. You can’t even see hands!
Which is why a slip on a platform unbeknownst to the largest voting bloc — meaning my mother and probably yours — will end up a 2024 blip if DeSantis can achieve these vital elements:
A crisp, explicit contrast with Trump. Talking about a “culture of losing” is suffice for now, but dodging a direct confrontation with the Donald over his Big Lie will look weak to GOP primary voters who salivate for a fighter. A policy contrast will be necessary too. This matrix could be trickier, given the general election risk of DeSantis’ right flank on social/cultural issues like abortion, but his mantra can’t be about the REINS Act. Pick two issues and convey why you’re more effective than Trump on delivering them. Repeat.
A visceral connection with voters through a … (I know, sigh) moment. Irascible Ron won’t wear well for nine long months. It’ll be hard to match Trump’s easy wit and biting humor. But empathy, warmth and sunny disposition could go a long way with deadeyed voters staring at another Tump v. Biden match-up. This can happen through a town hall, a debate, a dimly lit interview, a ropeline interaction. Six months from now, there should be more stories saying DeSantis is actually warm — and not weird. If the reverse is true, it just won’t work. The most charismatic candidate usually wins, with perhaps the exception of the current one. (See: Trump, Obama, Bush & Clinton.)
A coalition of the willing, with defectors. DeSantis will need to peel off some prominent MAGA-heads, who on second thought, have decided Trump is no longer viable or defendable, whether it be due to poll numbers, or mounting indictments or a failure to deliver on policy goals. This is where DeSantis’ wonkiness could come in handy (in light doses, Little bites Baron!) But if he’s going to catch the King, he’ll need validators that permit others to flee the kingdom. I’m talking Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders … and even Tim Scott bowing out for a … “unifying vision and brighter future for families…” or something of the sort.
I’ve given you the gameplan. What more must I do.
If he manages to execute even two out of three above elements, DeSantis may just be within striking distance of what would be the greatest political feat since … Trump steamrolled 2016.
And the Spaces fail will matter as much as how many field organizers you hire. Or whether you complete the most trips to Iowa. Or who your deputy press secretary is in South Carolina.
You know, other things the media briefly fixate upon for its own edification.
The Spaces fail is only a salient metaphor if the DeSantis ship ultimately detonates itself later, which remains entirely possible.
Then the failed liftoff analogy writes itself.
But you shouldn’t wholly dismiss DeSantis based on Elon’s flight delay.