WASHINGTON – The newly minted Ron DeSantis presidential campaign followed up its unorthodox announcement Thursday with a press release announcing a three-state tour next week … instead of a supporter-filled rally.
A seemingly slow-motion rollout is one of the surprising things about the formal debut of the DeSantis presidential campaign that may – or may not – shake up the Republican presidential race now led by former President Donald Trump.
Twitter technical problems and a seeming reluctance to take on Trump directly are also among the eyebrow-raisers, though DeSantis and aides described themselves pleased with their opening.
“No one will work harder than Governor DeSantis to share his vision with the country,” said campaign manager Generra Peck. “He has only begun to fight.”
Among the surprises so far:
A unique – and slow – rollout for DeSantis
Rather than staging a big rally with supporters – as done by candidates Trump, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott – DeSantis followed up his Federal Election Commission filing with an interview in an untried venue: Twitter Spaces.
Website crashes, audio issues and other technical problems delayed the broadcast for nearly a half-hour, giving DeSantis’ critics plenty of fodder for mockery of his entire effort.
The DeSantis rollout reflects a “lack of basic competence,” said Tim Miller, a former Republican who headed communications for Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign. “He has the resources, the pick of the litter when it comes to staff, a very obvious message, and still the execution has been horrendous.”
DeSantis and allies said the Twitter problems happened because so many people wanted to listen in. “It was the biggest they’d ever had,” DeSantis said during a follow-up interview on Fox News. “It did break the Twitter Space.”
DeSantis not hosting a rally (yet)
Last week, DeSantis allies discussed the possibility of a traditional kickoff rally in his home state of Florida; this week, they surprised people by not scheduling any Florida public event.
Instead, the campaign announced Thursday that it would “blitz early states next week,” starting with a “campaign kickoff” Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa. The Iowa caucuses are expected to start the Republican nominating process next year.
DeSantis will also visit New Hampshire and South Carolina, which are expected to host the first two primaries of campaign season. The campaign said the four-day swing will cover a dozen cities and towns in the three pivotal political states.
No direct engagement with Trump
During the Twitter Spaces and Fox News events, DeSantis did not mention the name of the Republican campaign’s top issue: Donald Trump. The former president has built big polling leads, despite his legal problems and skepticism from more traditional Republicans.
DeSantis did suggest that he would make Trump’s electoral record an issue, saying the Republican Party must counter “a culture of losing” in recent elections. He also suggested that the Trump administration fell short of many goals, such as the uncompleted wall along the Mexico-U.S. border.
DeSantis also indicated he would press Trump about debates, the best way to draw contrasts between candidates.
When Fox News host Trey Gowdy asked DeSantis about what he would say to a candidate who has talked of shunning debates – a reference to Trump – DeSantis had a somewhat sharp reply.
“I think we should debate,” DeSantis said. “I think the people want to hear it.”
Trump won’t be silent
While DeSantis rolled out his campaign, Trump stepped up his criticism, especially after Twitter Spaces malfunctioned.
“I know Ron,” Trump posted on Truth Social. “The way he handled his announcement, he will handle the Country!”
Some Republicans wondered if Trump and his supporters were protesting a little too much. Republican consultant Liz Mair said the Trump-ites and his team appear “petrified” of the DeSantis campaign.
“The best response last night would have been to ignore him, give him the proverbial rope to hang himself,” Mair said. “Instead, they just couldn’t help themselves but wade in. They’re freaking out and melting down.”
Miller said stagecraft sometimes doesn’t matter and that “poorly executed campaigns often win.”
He added: “But when one of your main contrast points versus Trump is effectiveness, it’s not a great way to get out of the gates.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ron DeSantis Twitter glitch, more surprises in his run for presidency