In the aftermath of the debacle, declaring a presidential run in a Twitter chat may appear to have been a miscalculation. Yet it started as a calculation entirely in keeping with DeSantis’s style of campaigning.
DeSantis’s ads raise barriers between the candidate and the voters. In his first one, voters again and again encounter the candidate via a screen: They see him on TV, on their phone. In the one scene in which the candidate is inserted among actual people, they look at one another and raise their phones toward him, presumably to video the encounter. In his second ad, DeSantis walks toward a speaker’s platform as somebody else’s voice delivers his message for him. Obviously, the directors of these ads are adopting strategies to cope with an immediate problem: DeSantis looks awkward when he interacts with people, and his voice is grating and uninspiring. But the unintended effect is to send a message that the candidate is a contrivance.
So it was unsurprising that DeSantis would make his announcement on what sounded like an amateur hour. He was literally invisible at his own announcement. He did not interact with voters. He was protected from direct exposure by the interposition of allies and supporters. Or such was the plan.
Only, the plan backfired. This time, DeSantis was not protected by all the layers of mediation around him. He was thoroughly and humiliatingly exposed.
Nobody ever seemed to have given any thought to the question What’s our message to the people we hope to persuade to our cause?
Watch some old announcement speeches on YouTube, and you see a carefully considered plan in every one. The candidates stand among family or supporters; they speak to particular crowds; they focus on biography or policy or some crisis of the day. Somebody has thought hard about why the candidate is there, what the candidate hopes to achieve, what the point of this exercise is.
DeSantis’s corporate sponsors had a plan. They were there to demonstrate the messaging potential of Twitter Spaces for far-right political content. That plan went awry when Twitter Spaces proved glitchy and unreliable, but still, a plan it was. DeSantis, though, had no plan. He just twirled about Elon Musk’s ballroom, dancing to Musk’s tune. [Continue reading…]