Ron DeSantis’ fledgling presidential campaign is scrambling for momentum after a glitch-ridden online launch event drew mockery from his rivals and renewed doubts about his viability as a national candidate.
The Florida governor plans to barnstorm the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina next week in his first series of public events since joining the 2024 race for the Republican nomination on Wednesday.
He will make speeches and conduct fireside chats in a four-day sweep across 12 cities and towns from May 30th to June 2nd, beginning in Iowa and ending in South Carolina, his campaign said.
"Our campaign is committed to putting in the time to win these early nominating states," said campaign manager Generra Peck. "No one will work harder than Governor DeSantis to share his vision with the country — he has only begun to fight."
In the meantime, his campaign was working to try and put his glitch-marred launch event with Elon Musk on Twitter on Wednesday night in the best light possible. The unconventional launch of the presidential campaign was beset by technical glitches which delayed by nearly 30 minutes his formal announcement that he is running for the White House.
The problems with the Twitter Space event on Wednesday led to Mr DeSantis being mocked by both his Republican rival Donald Trump and US president Joe Biden.
As hundreds of thousands of people sought to listen to the conversation between Mr DeSantis and Twitter owner Elon Musk, the audio-only platform was plagued by glitches. Listeners initially heard silences, distant voices and echoes before the event stopped completely.
At one point Mr Musk was heard saying that the servers were “straining somewhat”.
Mr DeSantis joked in a fundraising pitch later in the evening that he “broke the internet.” His campaign said he raised $1 million within an hour of his presidential announcement.
He spent the rest of the evening giving interviews to friendly conservative media outlets, outlining his vision for his campaign.
Mr DeSantis’ entrance into the Republican contest sets up a showdown with Mr Trump, who polls show has a commanding lead over his rival.
In a telephone discussion with conservative media after his campaign launch, Mr DeSantis took some of his strongest shots at Mr Trump to date, suggesting that the former president helped balloon the federal budget deficit and supported legislation in 2018 that he says would have provided “amnesty” to immigrants in the country illegally.
As the DeSantis campaign launch on Twitter experienced its problems, President Biden tweeted: “This link works” – pointing to a page where donors could make a contribution to the Biden/Harris re-election campaign.
On his social media platform, Truth Social, Mr Trump called the launch a “disaster” and “fatal.”
In his Twitter Space conversation Mr DeSantis said he was running for president to “lead our great American comeback”. He maintained the country was “going in the wrong direction”.
He said if he secured the Republican Party nomination he would win the presidency in 2024. “No excuses, I will get the job done,” he said.
Mr DeSantis is seeking to present himself as a no-nonsense executive who broke with the federal government over Covid-19 policies and pushed back against progressive ideology.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, another 2024 Republican candidate who was Mr Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, issued a campaign ad on Wednesday that took a swipe at both rivals, mocking Mr DeSantis as a “pit bull defender” of the former president.
"America deserves a choice not an echo," it said.
The DeSantis campaign will hold a “kickoff” event on May 30th in Iowa, a state that may be critical to his presidential hopes. Its sizeable evangelical population at times has been cool on Mr Trump, helping to hand him a defeat in 2016 in party caucuses. - Additional reporting: Reuters