WASHINGTON — No one liked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign launch more than former President Donald Trump.
“Wow. The DeSanctus TWITTER launch is a DISASTER!” Trump wrote on the Truth Social media platform. “His whole campaign will be a disaster. WATCH!”
Schadenfreude — the German word for taking pleasure in another’s failure — might understate the glee Trump and his team felt as DeSantis’ glitch-ridden Twitter audio-chat with billionaire SpaceX founder Elon Musk failed to lift off for about 20 minutes.
As hundreds of thousands of listeners logged off, Trump allies shared images to represent their excitement: a glass of wine and a laughing-to-tears emoji among them. Trump quickly posted a video to Truth Social that showed contrasting images of his boisterous campaign announcement last year and a Twitter screen showing the DeSantis discussion “Preparing to launch.”
But Trump advisers also used the moment to argue that the foul-up was reflective of DeSantis and his operation on the whole.
“Glitchy. Tech issues. Uncomfortable silences. A complete failure to launch,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said. “And that’s just the candidate.”
Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for the pro-Trump political committee Make America Great Again Inc., said in a statement that the episode showed Trump is the right person to win the nomination and the presidency.
“Ron DeSantis’ botched campaign announcement is another example of why he is just not ready for the job,” Leavitt said. “The stakes are too high, and the fight to save America is too critical to gamble on a first-timer who is clearly not ready for prime time.”
Ultimately, DeSantis and Musk were able to stream their conversation, which was moderated by Musk pal and DeSantis fan David Sacks, over Twitter. DeSantis kicked off by reciting a version of his stump speech that is new to many Americans but familiar to his most ardent supporters.
His team portrayed the technological issues as a sign of success, with one senior campaign official saying DeSantis “broke the Internet.”
The launch problem came on the heels of several months of DeSantis watching his poll numbers slide. Trump now consistently claims more than half of Republican primary voters in national polls, and DeSantis’ average is closer to 21 percent, according to Real Clear Politics.
DeSantis will meet with fundraisers and donors this week in Miami as part of his campaign rollout.
Jonathan Allen is a senior national politics reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.