Risk and reward as Ron DeSantis links arms with Elon Musk
Ron DeSantis is expected to launch his 2024 bid for the Republican presidential nomination in a live interview on Elon Musk’s Twitter on Wednesday.
In doing so, the Florida governor is bypassing more traditional methods of kicking off a campaign, such as an in-person rally, a big TV interview or a slickly produced online video.
While he will eventually do all of these, opting for Twitter as his first choice makes a notable statement about the kind of campaign he will run – and the type of supporter he hopes to prioritise.
The event – details of which are still unclear – is all but guaranteed to provide a friendly audience for Mr DeSantis.
Speaking at an event on Tuesday, Mr Musk said he would not endorse any candidate “at this time”.
He said he voted for President Biden in 2020, and has described himself as a centrist, although he did say last year that he would support Mr DeSantis were he to run for president.
Mr DeSantis’ appearance on Twitter’s live broadcast platform known as Spaces will give him the ear of Mr Musk’s huge fan base. Mr Musk is viewed warmly by most conservatives after he bought Twitter and began using the platform to elevate conservative voices.
By aligning himself with Mr Elon Musk and Twitter, Mr DeSantis is also aligning himself with the more aggressive style of conservatism that has filled social media in recent years.
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It could also be seen as a finger in the eye of his chief political rival, former US President Donald Trump – and a sign that the Florida governor will not cede the online battlefield to his 2024 rival.
Mr Trump was forced off Twitter after the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol and started his own competing social media service, Truth Social.
As president, Mr Trump expertly used Twitter to drive news cycle after news cycle, and he believed it was instrumental to his 2016 campaign win.
“I might not be here talking to you right now as president if I didn’t have an honest way of getting the word out,” he said in 2017.
Mr Musk has rescinded the Trump ban, but the former president has yet to resume posting to his account.
Last month, Mr Elon Musk told BBC News he had not spoken to Mr Trump since taking over Twitter. “He may or may not come back,” he said.
Twitter has vastly more active users than Truth Social – and Mr DeSantis may have spotted an opportunity.
For his part, Mr Musk will see this as a coup – he wants big moments to be broadcast live on Twitter. He’s particularly interested in Twitter Spaces, where millions of people can tune into an interview on the platform.
But by seeming to align himself with Mr DeSantis, he may be opening himself up to the criticism that he is turning Twitter into a town hall for conservatives.
Such a close relationship could create pitfalls for the DeSantis campaign too.
Yes, Mr Musk can give Mr DeSantis much needed publicity. But Mr Musk is also, famously, a chaos merchant – someone who is very hard to predict.
He could give support to Mr DeSantis but then take it away – he has the platform to both hype him up but also knock him down.