Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida plans to announce the start of his 2024 presidential campaign on Wednesday in a live audio conversation on Twitter with Elon Musk, owner of the polarizing platform, according to people familiar with the plans.
Mr. DeSantis' entry into the Republican Party's primary race against former President Donald J. Trump had been widely expected, but the decision to do it with Mr. Musk added an element of surprise and gave Mr. DeSantis access to a wide audience online. NBC News first reported his plans.
The event on Twitter Spaces, planned for 6:00 p.m. Eastern, injects a level of risk into the launch that it hopes will be carefully scripted and ensure Mr. DeSantis' first impression as a presidential candidate will align him with Mr. Musk, an eccentric businessman who occasionally sits ranks as the richest man in the world.
One challenge for Mr DeSantis as he enters the 2024 race will be competing for attention with Mr Trump, who for decades has shown a knack for being the center of attention. Trump aides have been hinting for months that he plans to return to Twitter sooner rather than later. Mr. Musk has already lifted the ex-president's ban imposed when Twitter became a public company.
In addition to his Twitter events, Mr. DeSantis is expected to appear Wednesday night on Fox News in an interview with Trey Gowdy, a former congressman from South Carolina, according to network. The governor also gathered donors Wednesday at the Four Seasons in Miami to start raising money for his campaign.
Super PAC support Mr Trump mocked the plan.
“This is one of the most untouched campaign launches in modern history,” said Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for Make America Great Again, a pro-Trump group. “The only thing less fun than the launch of a special campaign on Twitter, was DeSantis' afterparty at the uber-elite Four Seasons resort in Miami.”
Mr. Musk said in an event with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that he did not formally lend his support to Mr. DeSantis, or any other Republicans. On Monday, he retweeted a video of the presidential opening ceremony for Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the other Republican nominee.
Under Mr. Musk, Twitter has cultivated a more Republican audience. This month, Tucker Carlson, the fired former Fox News star, announced he would be hosting his hit show on Twitter.
DeSantis' event with Mr Musk will be moderated by David Sacks, a Republican donor who is a supporter of the governor and close to Mr Musk. Mr Sacks, a technology entrepreneur and investor, donated $50,000 to Mr DeSantis' state political committee ahead of his re-election, campaign finance records show. He has spoken positively about the governor's handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Florida. “He was the first governor to stop this crazy lockdown,” Mr Sacks said on Bloomberg TV in 2021. “I appreciate that.”
In choosing Spaces, Mr. DeSantis relies on audio-only streaming tools with a history of bugs and failures. Mr. Musk has used the feature regularly in the six months since he bought Twitter for $44 billion in October, appearing on Spaces to talk about the state of his various businesses and giving interviews, which have attracted tens of thousands of listeners.
Mr Musk said he voted for President Biden in the 2020 election, but has since criticized him and his administration, which has a frosty relationship with Tesla, its electric car company. The billionaire said it was difficult for Biden to keep in touch with voters at the age of 80.
When asked about Mr. Biden at an interview on CNBC last week, Mr. Musk said he just wanted a “normal human being” to lead the country.
“It's not just a matter, do they share the same beliefs as you?” he says. “But are they good at getting things done?”
While Mr. Musk calls himself a moderate, donating relatively small sums to Republicans and Democrats in the past, he has shifted his support in recent years to the right. On Twitter he engages in and shares far-right conspiracy theories, including one about the October attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mr Musk has voiced his support for Mr DeSantis, including last July, when he tweeted that the governor of Florida would “win easily” if it is matched against Mr. Biden in 2024. And in November he is answered emphatically when asked by a Twitter user if he would support Mr DeSantis in that year's election.
Last summer, when Mr. DeSantis was asked about the potential support of Mr. Musk, the Governor of Florida cracked: “I welcome the support from African Americans. What can I say?” (Mr. Musk is white and from South Africa.)
In Florida, Mr. DeSantis has endorsed legislation meant, in his words, to protect people from the “Silicon Valley elite.” He also criticized tech companies for their efforts to remove misinformation from their platforms, which he likened to an attack on free speech and truth carried out in concert with government officials.
“You've seen administrative nations collude with Big Tech to censor the right information, whether it's people attacking the Covid lockdown, whether they're questioning the efficacy of masks or closing schools,” said Mr. DeSantis in an April address to the conservative Heritage Foundation. . “There is a concerted effort for Big Tech companies to do what the government has never been allowed to do outright.”
On Tuesday night, the governor's wife, Casey DeSantis, tweeted video Mr. DeSantis was getting ready to walk onto the stage – a clear foreshadowing of his pending announcement. “They call it faith because in the face of darkness you can see that brighter future,” says one narrator. The video asks supporters to text a phone number for more information.
“Thanks for subscribing to receive text messages from Ron DeSantis for President,” reads the auto reply. “Pre-launch status: PENDING.”