The Twitter primary begins this evening.
Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida and a presumptive contender for the Republican nomination for US president, will reportedly announce his candidacy for America’s highest office by pandering to Elon Musk live on Twitter Spaces on May 24. Joining the pair in the apparent role of moderator is David Sacks, former PayPal executive turned venture capitalist who is a Musk confidant and who once hosted a fundraiser for DeSantis.
Good luck, governor.
By allying himself with Musk, DeSantis has relinquished the two most valuable commodities in modern politics—attention and control. Musk is anything but predictable and his presence in the presidential primary—whether or not he formally endorses DeSantis—is a wild card.
Musk claims he’s an ideological centrist belonging to neither major political party, but his rightward slide has been incontrovertible of late. Musk bought Twitter on a campaign to restore “free speech” to the social media platform, claiming that its content moderation rules and enforcement decisions unfairly and unequally targeted conservatives. Since closing the $44 billion deal and taking over in October, Musk has restored the accounts of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and, of course Donald Trump, though the former president has yet to post on Twitter.
These days, you can find Musk tweeting about the scourge of personal pronouns (a dig against the transgender community), conspiracy theories about George Soros (flatly antisemitic), and false claims that the recent Texas mall shooting was a “psyop,” a government psychological operation.
As Twitter’s steward, Musk has become arguably the most important person on the right-wing internet—maybe even more so than Trump himself. With Trump staying off Twitter and posting solely on his own platform Truth Social, perhaps DeSantis sees a window to gain influence on Twitter. And while DeSantis might not replicate Trump’s near-compulsive tweeting, he can certainly try to cozy up to its owner, operator, and chief “twit.”
The likely mistake for DeSantis, however, is that Musk is eerily similar in demeanor and motivation to Trump. Both are impossible to tame, allegiant only to themselves, and driven mostly by narcissism above all else—even above profit.
The DeSantis announcement is an indubitable win for Musk. He’s gaining influence with a leading presidential candidate, drawing attention to his website, and cementing Twitter as a hub for right-wing discourse during the upcoming election.
But even the early headlines about DeSantis’s much-anticipated announcement have taken a turn. The focus is naturally on Musk, not DeSantis, and what his involvement could mean for the announcement and his relationship with the primary field.