FILE – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses attendees during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit, Friday, July 22, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.InternationalIndiaAfricaSocial media is a tool of mass outreach at a scale never seen before, becoming crucial for electoral success. However, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ appearance with a major tech mogul and owner of one such website isn’t likely to move the dial much with voters, one expert told Sputnik.On Wednesday, DeSantis formally launched his 2024 campaign for the US presidency, announcing his effort during a joint appearance on a Twitter Space with Twitter CEO Elon Musk. That same day, a poll released by CNN found that 80% of Republicans prefer either DeSantis or former US President Donald Trump as their 2024 candidateDr. Nicholas Waddy, political analyst and Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred, told Sputnik on Thursday that social media would be vital for any candidate that hopes to win, but he was skeptical as to whether Musk’s presence would have a noticeable effect on a party captivated by Trump.”Ron DeSantis deserves a lot of credit for choosing to declare his candidacy in a new and innovative way, through social media. Part of the message he was trying to send was undoubtedly that he is a younger, hipper candidate than Donald Trump,” Waddy said.
"Obviously, he was also trying to leverage the newfound popularity of Twitter and Elon Musk (among conservatives) as he did so. As it happened, the technical obstacles blew up in his face, but that will seem like a minor blip if DeSantis can start catching up to Donald Trump and make the Republican presidential primaries competitive and exciting."
AmericasFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis Announces 2024 Presidential Election CampaignYesterday, 22:08 GMT”Social media as a whole can play a significant role in our next presidential election, in that it is probably every bit as important as traditional media in terms of Americans’ access to information. It is a way for candidates to spread their message without the support and assistance of the mainstream media, for instance. Donald Trump will thus rely on it heavily. It is also, as we discovered in 2020, susceptible to manipulation and a major practitioner of censorship,” Waddy said.
"Elon Musk is now very well-regarded by conservatives and Republicans, and thus his support for any one candidate might prove useful, but hardly decisive. Likewise, if Twitter leans one way or another – or at least ceases to persecute Republicans – that will be significant, but there are many other factors that could be seen as crucial in a close election. Much will hinge, for instance, on how aggressively Facebook and Google suppress news which is harmful to Democrats."
The analyst noted, however, that Musk hasn’t sunk tons of money or political endorsements into past elections, signaling he has little interest in being a “kingmaker,” partisan insider, or candidate.
"The bottom line appears to be that he aspires to play a central role in many policy and pop culture debates," Waddy told Sputnik. "He is more passionate about space exploration and green energy and free speech than he is about partisan politics."
Sputnik ExplainsWhat Does Ron DeSantis Say About US Foreign Policy?Yesterday, 14:41 GMTAlthough more than half a dozen figures have declared themselves candidates for the 2024 GOP nomination, in reality it’s likely a two-horse race: DeSantis and Trump.Since DeSantis won re-election last November, speculation increased that he might run in the next presidential election as well, and pollsters began asking voters what they thought of the idea, with DeSantis or Trump trading places in different polls as voters’ favorites.
"DeSantis is currently struggling to hold his own against Trump, and it is doubtful whether Musk's endorsement would alter those dynamics much in itself," Waddy said. "DeSantis will rise or fall on his own merits, by and large. The vast majority of conservatives and Republicans like and respect DeSantis – but they have a longer, much deeper history with Trump."
“The more Democrats (and prosecutors) attack Trump, the more protective many rank-and-file Republicans become toward him,” Waddy said, adding that this is, “in all likelihood, part of the Democrats’ playbook for 2024.”
"By threatening Trump with prosecution in 2023, they hope to solidify the GOP's loyalty to and embrace of him; and then, in 2024, they intend to neutralize Trump's political viability by trapping him in courtroom dramas and flooding the airwaves with stories about his legal problems," he explained.
“DeSantis will no doubt argue in the meantime that he can concentrate fully on running for the presidency, unlike Trump, and he can offer a fresh and appealing take on conservatism, tested in Florida, to voters, that offers the prospect of expanding the GOP’s appeal beyond a narrow base of Trumpers,” Waddy explained. “The question is whether anyone will be listening, or whether instead the nation will remain captivated by the spectacle that is Donald J. Trump.”