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Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign launch melts down in Twitter glitches

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.

Some Twitter users reported that the app crashed as they tried to listen to the event where Twitter owner Elon Musk joined DeSantis for the announcement. When the event continued after the frequent early glitches, DeSantis was asked a series of overwhelmingly friendly questions that allowed him to highlight his go-to talking points.

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 organizer said amid the event’s early glitches.

At times, DeSantis’ account appeared absent from the audio-only event on the feature known as Twitter Spaces. Metrics published by Twitter said that more than 600,000 were attempting to listen.

“We’re reallocating some of the server capability to be able to handle the load here. It’s really going crazy,” Musk said at one point.

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.

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.

“American decline is not inevitable. It is a choice,” DeSantis said. “And we should choose a new direction, a path that will lead to American revitalization.”

Much of DeSantis’ remarks echoed the culture war messaging that has defined most of his time as Florida governor. He hit on themes tied to injecting Florida’s public education system with policy changes that cater to right-wing audiences, pushing back against the idea that his administration has tried to ban books and defending immigration crackdowns.

“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.

DeSantis’ opponents reveled in his problems.

“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.”

Trump seized on the event to launch attack ads on DeSantis, which he posted to his Twitter rival, Truth Social.

The DeSantis campaign, however, insisted that the technical 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.

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.”

Dasha Burns, Jonathan Allen, Vaughn Hillyard and Daniel Arkin contributed.

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