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DeSantis Set to Announce 2024 Run on Twitter With Elon Musk

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is planning to announce the start of his 2024 presidential campaign on Wednesday in a live audio conversation on Twitter with Elon Musk, the platform’s polarizing owner, according to people with knowledge of his plans.

Mr. DeSantis’s entry into the Republican primary race against former President Donald J. Trump has been widely expected, but the decision to do so with Mr. Musk adds a surprising element and gives Mr. DeSantis access to a large audience online. NBC News first reported the plans.

The event on Twitter Spaces, which is planned for 6 p.m. Eastern, injects a level of risk into a rollout that is expected to be carefully scripted and ensures that Mr. DeSantis’s first impression as a presidential candidate will be aligning himself with Mr. Musk, an eccentric businessman who has ranked at times as the world’s richest man.

One challenge for Mr. DeSantis as he enters the 2024 race will be competing for attention with Mr. Trump, who for decades has shown a knack for commandeering the limelight. Mr. Trump’s aides have signaled for months that he plans to return to Twitter sooner rather than later. Mr. Musk already lifted the ban on the former president that was imposed when Twitter was a public company.

In addition to his Twitter event, Mr. DeSantis is expected to appear on Wednesday evening on Fox News in an interview with Trey Gowdy, a former congressman from South Carolina, according to the network. The governor has also gathered donors on Wednesday at the Four Seasons in Miami to began raising money for his campaign.

A super PAC backing Mr. Trump mocked the plans.

“This is one of the most out-of-touch campaign launches in modern history,” said Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for Make America Great Again, the pro-Trump group. “The only thing less relatable than a niche campaign launch on Twitter, is DeSantis’s after party at the uber-elite Four Seasons resort in Miami.”

Mr. Musk said at an event with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that he was not formally throwing his support behind Mr. DeSantis, or any other Republican. On Monday, he retweeted a video of the presidential kickoff event for Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, another Republican contender.

Under Mr. Musk, Twitter has cultivated a more Republican audience, recently striking an agreement with Tucker Carlson, the fired former Fox News star, to host his popular show on Twitter.

The DeSantis event with Mr. Musk will be moderated by David Sacks, a Republican donor who is a supporter of the governor and is close to Mr. Musk. Mr. Sacks, a technology entrepreneur and investor, donated $50,000 to Mr. DeSantis’s political committee ahead of his re-election, campaign finance records show. He has spoken positively of the governor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Florida. “He was the first governor to stop these insane lockdowns,” Mr. Sacks said on Bloomberg TV in 2021. “I respect that.”

Mr. Musk has said he voted for President Biden in the 2020 election, but has since been critical of him and his administration, which has a frosty relationship with Tesla, his electric car company. The billionaire has said it is difficult for Mr. Biden to stay in touch with voters at the age of 80.

When asked about Mr. Biden in an interview on CNBC last week, Mr. Musk said he just wanted “a normal human being” to lead the country.

“It’s not simply a matter of, Do they share your beliefs?” he said. “But are they good at getting things done?”

While Mr. Musk has called himself a moderate, donating relatively small amounts to both Republicans and Democrats in the past, he has shifted his support in recent years toward the right. On Twitter he has engaged with and shared right-wing conspiracy theories, including one about the October attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Mr. Musk has voiced his support for Mr. DeSantis, including last July, when he tweeted that the Florida governor would “easily win” if matched up against Mr. Biden in 2024. And in November he responded in the affirmative when asked by a Twitter user if he would support Mr. DeSantis in that year’s election.

Last summer, when Mr. DeSantis was asked about Mr. Musk’s potential support, the Florida governor cracked: “I welcome support from African Americans. What can I say?” (Mr. Musk is white and from South Africa.)

In Florida, Mr. DeSantis has supported legislation intended, in his words, to protect people against “Silicon Valley elites.” He has also criticized tech companies for their efforts to remove misinformation from their platforms, which he has likened to an assault on free speech and truth undertaken in concert with government officials.

“You’ve seen the administrative state collude with Big Tech to censor truthful information, whether it’s people attacking Covid lockdowns, whether it’s them questioning the efficacy of masks or school closures,” Mr. DeSantis said in an April speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation. “There was a concerted effort for Big Tech companies to do what government is never permitted to do directly.”

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