DeSantis to open presidential bid by out-Trumping Trump

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May 24, 2023, 8:57:48 AM5/24/23
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DeSantis to open presidential bid by out-Trumping Trump

Ron DeSantis’ decision to announce his 2024 White House bid in a conversation with Elon Musk on Twitter on Wednesday will make a typically blunt statement about his campaign, the unruly populism of the modern Republican Party and an accelerating conservative media revolution.

Florida’s governor will finally jump into the race by throwing down a gauntlet to ex-President Donald Trump with a launch strategy that frames him as the true anti-establishment rebel in the race who is willing to crush the conventions of traditional presidential politics.

His choice of venue on Twitter Spaces – the site’s audio platform – also exemplifies the Trump-era GOP’s transformation into a party that rewards gesture politics and whose activists respond to the unmoderated social media jungle while disdaining traditional standards of conduct and governance.

But while Twitter’s attractiveness to conservative voters under Musk, who has 141 million followers, means DeSantis may be making a shrewd move in a GOP primary, he could further damage an already questionable reputation among more moderate voters he’d need in a general election by appearing on an increasingly polarizing platform.

That’s because Twitter, which once offered a platform for democratic movements in the Arab Spring, has been transformed by its new owner into a febrile circus of untamed free speech, conspiracy theories and unverifiable information. Only this week, a fake image of an explosion near the Pentagon went viral, causing a blip on the stock market in a potential preview of a presidential campaign likely to be plagued by misinformation and AI-generated falsehoods. Musk has, meanwhile, shown a willingness to ignite his own Twitter infernos, so his increasingly prominent role suggests the 2024 presidential race could be just as turbulent as the 2016 and 2020 editions, which were marked by Trump’s extreme rhetoric and voter fraud accusations.

Another mind-bending twist to election season came on Tuesday with the former president’s virtual court appearance in a case arising out of a hush money payment to a former adult film star in which he has already pleaded not guilty. Judge Juan Merchan set a trial date for March 25, 2024 – in the middle of primary season. The timetable raises the prospect that Trump could use the trial as a stage to drive home his claim that he’s a victim of political persecution. But it also creates a risk for Trump that he could be criminally convicted while he’s still fighting for the GOP nomination – an extraordinary and unprecedented scenario.

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