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Fla. Gov. DeSantis announces presidential run on glitch-filled Twitter conversation

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis officially announced that he is running for president in 2024, but the launch ended up as more of a crash landing. The conversation was set to take place live on Twitter with Twitter owner Elon Musk, but it began with 20 minutes of technical failures, long silences and echoing microphones as more than half a million people tried to join the conversation. When DeSantis finally was able to speak, he took on President Biden.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: Biden's allowed woke ideology to drive his agenda. We will never surrender to the woke mob, and we will leave woke ideology in the dustbin of history.

MARTIN: For more on how DeSantis's campaign moves forward from here, I'm joined now by Republican political strategist Scott Jennings. Mr. Jennings, welcome back. Thanks so much for joining us.

SCOTT JENNINGS: Thank you. Good morning.

MARTIN: So what signal do you think that Governor DeSantis was trying to send by announcing his run with this conversation on Twitter?

JENNINGS: Well, the overall message of DeSantis is really a statement about, I think, his rejection of the legacy media. And of course, we're all talking about it, so maybe they were looking for an out-of-the-box idea to generate conversation. But to me, it's about the media. DeSantis doesn't like the media, and he's trying to make this argument that we can bypass traditional media and run for president and contrast himself to Donald Trump, who he would argue talks the talk on the media but won't walk the walk because he still craves their attention. So I really think it's a larger cultural conversation he wants to have about Republicans, who, by the way, agree with DeSantis. They don't like the media. They don't trust the media. And he's really trying to say, let's bypass them and make them irrelevant.

MARTIN: You mean the legacy media? I assume you're not talking about Fox and the other conservative media outlets. Or are you?

JENNINGS: Yeah, legacy mainstream media and the political journalists.

MARTIN: OK.

JENNINGS: Absolutely.

MARTIN: So as we mentioned, technical difficulties - embarrassing, you know, awkward. We always try to remind people Twitter is not real life. But if you were advising the DeSantis campaign, how would you be talking about it, or would you be talking about it? And do you think this follows him or has any meaning beyond last night?

JENNINGS: Well, the spin they have is the correct spin. You know, obviously, the interest was so great that it overwhelmed this platform, and who, other than Donald Trump, would have triggered such a response and sort of national conversation about something? So that's a good thing. They also raised a bunch of money. I think where they lost out was on the visuals. Presidential campaign launches often provide striking visuals that give people a chance to see you in a way that gives them the idea that this looks like a president. So they lost out on that. So I know they've launched a schedule for an upcoming tour. I would be thinking about how to stage him in a way that gives people the idea that, yep, this looks like a guy who could be the president. So the visual piece of this is what's missing, and they can fix that over the next few days.

MARTIN: So speaking of the former president, he's really gone in on DeSantis over the last couple of months. But DeSantis really, for the most part, hasn't answered. Do you think that's been a mistake, and how should he counter now? Now he can't say, well, I'm not really running. We'll see, whatever. He is running. So should he answer, and how?

JENNINGS: Yeah, he's going to have to go right at Donald Trump. You can't - you know, the problem with subtlety in politics is that not everyone gets it. And so you have to go right at it and make the argument, make the contrast. And I think he's going to start to do it. He's already started doing it on COVID. He may obviously talk about immigration as well and say Trump wasn't able to finish the job here. And I'm sure there's going to be some other topics, but you can't allude to it. I think he just has to go right at it. There's really no other way. And I think what Republicans expect is you to fight for what you say you believe in. And beating around the bush is not fighting. They're going to expect him to go right after Trump. And I don't think there's any downside to doing it. The battle is joined. You're in the race now, and that's what people want to see you do. How badly do you want it?

MARTIN: Before we let you go, DeSantis, interestingly enough, is considered fairly reclusive for a politician. His people skills are often spoken about by the people who cover him or around him closely. Does this matter in a national campaign? How do you think that works?

JENNINGS: Well, I don't think he's any more reclusive than, say, Joe Biden, who rarely meets with the press either. I - look, he got reelected by 20 points in Florida. I think this conversation about his political skills is overblown. And I do think there's a dedicated cadre of people who really hate Ron DeSantis, and they're constantly trying to come up with reasons why he can't possibly succeed. I don't personally think this is going to be an issue.

MARTIN: OK.

JENNINGS: Every candidate has their own personality quirks and styles, but obviously there's something to him. Otherwise he wouldn't have won such a big victory in what previously had been a purple state.

MARTIN: That is Republican strategist Scott Jennings. Mr. Jennings, thanks so much for talking to us once again.

JENNINGS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.