Ron DeSantis Is Launching His Campaign on Twitter With Elon Musk. Does That Make Him a Genius or an Idiot?

Let’s exercise our constitutional right to free speech and discuss.

Ron DeSantis and Elon Musk.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images and Ludovic Marin /POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will officially announce that he’s running for president Wednesday night in a Twitter conversation with billionaire Elon Musk (who owns Twitter), NBC News is reporting.

The conversation will take place using the site’s Twitter Spaces feature, an audio-only broadcasting platform which users can access by clicking an oblong purple shape at the top of their feed, at 6 p.m. ET. It will be moderated by an individual named David Sacks, who, like Musk, is a South African–born tech entrepreneur and investor who believes the mainstream media in the United States is biased toward liberal beliefs and causes.


Is this smart politics or the folly of someone who is Too OnlineTM? The question has touched off some debate on Twitter itself and in Slate’s virtual newsroom! Let’s review the arguments.


It’s smart because:

• You/we are currently thinking about Ron DeSantis’ campaign announcement—a bonus of attention he might not have received if he’d held it in a more conventional setting.

• Elon Musk is known to casual followers of the news as the super-successful businessman responsible for Tesla automobiles and SpaceX rockets, and to more high-information readers as an enemy of American social-justice causes who believes that liberal speech norms are too restrictive about what one is “allowed” to say regarding race and gender. If you find either (or both) of those identities admirable, you might be the kind of voter who could support a candidate who claims to have made Florida into a kind of anti-woke free-market utopia.


• Maybe it will strike undecided voters as impressive and futuristic that DeSantis is doing an announcement online with a cutting-edge tech billionaire.

It’s dumb because:

• A relatively small number of voters are going to be interested in clicking an oblong purple button on Twitter (a relatively small social media service) during the dinner hour to hear (but not see) a conversation between three guys who agree with each other about almost everything.

• Musk’s interests as a news consumer and commentator tend toward the resentful amplification of niche conspiracy theories and techno-libertarian memes. The 2022 candidate who most closely fit the Musk model, Arizona Senate hopeful Blake Masters, was by one measure the worst-performing candidate in the country relative to other members of his party.


• It means DeSantis is forgoing the opportunity to have a more conventional launch in which he’s surrounded by American flags and palm trees and other emblems of Florida freedom.

Which argument has more merit?

Before you decide, perhaps consider a third perspective from someone who has been writing about Republican Party politics (and American politics in general) professionally for almost a decade, which is that it doesn’t matter one way or another. That’s because:


• Voting doesn’t start in the primary for another eight months and, historically, shifts in voter sentiment are more associated with debate performances and media coverage than the details of candidates’ campaign launches.

• It’s hard to imagine someone having better name recognition or brand loyalty among Republican primary voters than Donald Trump, who currently leads DeSantis in polls by about 35 percent despite having already lost an election to Joe Biden and facing at least one upcoming criminal trial. It’s possible that there is no “correct” DeSantis decision here in the sense of announcing his campaign in a way that will propel him toward overcoming Trump.

• I’ve been doing this for a decade? My God. What’s the retirement age in this country? [Googles] Oh, wow.

Well, nothing for us all to do but get buckled in for another eight months to 25 years of this stuff!