Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is on a campaign swing on behalf of Republican candidates around the country. And if you listen to what he has to say for more than a couple of minutes, you realize that, no matter what candidate he’s supposed to be touting in his speech, his focus is on 2024 and the presidential race.

DeSantis is trying out applause lines, testing them with MAGA audiences in battleground states. “The State of Florida is where woke goes to die,” he exclaims at every stop to big cheers. His battle against COVID-19 mandates also got huge applause as he ticked off government mandates and strictures he opposed.

Since recent scientific evidence has proven DeSantis right — for the most part — that part of his presentation should resonate strongly with independent voters. But it’s Florida’s war against woke that the people come to hear. And DeSantis doesn’t disappoint.

Spectator World:

DeSantis’s recurring focus, though, and the topic that got the loudest cheers, was battling Covid mandates and woke culture. He listed off the ways in which Florida has stood up to “the woke mob,” namely: by relinquishing the Disney Corporation’s special treatment in the wake of the Parental Rights in Education law uproar, banning Critical Race Theory in schools, promoting parents’ rights, establishing an initiative to educate children on American civics and to instruct kids on the consequences of communism “and how that has destroyed so many societies.”

DeSantis called the CRT ban the biggest issue his administration has worked on, saying schools need to “educate our kids [rather than] indoctrinate them” on matters such as “woke gender ideologies.” Returning time and again to matters that concern children, DeSantis spoke about the “mind virus” of woke ideologies “totally divorced from reality,” pointing as an example to Lia Thomas, the University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer who swam on the men’s team for three years, only to become a champion after switching to the women’s team.

Most revealing was the way in which DeSantis was selling himself: a non-nonsense, hard-charging, stand-up-to-the-left kind of candidate who doesn’t apologize for having sharp elbows.

DeSantis then went on to toot his own horn, subtly. Without naming names, he said, “A governor worth his salt is somebody who’s capable of being a leader, and there’s really no substitute for that. When you’re the governor, the buck stops with you.” He said the duty of a governor is to “stand up for people in your state,” adding that when he himself was elected governor, he didn’t do things based on polls, but made decisions “on conviction” and by “doing what’s right.”

DeSantis 2024 implied, the governor wrapped up with a “go get ’em!” closer on courage. As a political leader, you “have to be willing to show some courage to take on the woke mob, fighting cancel culture — that’s what is called for right now.”

“I get attacked when I roll out of bed in the morning,” he said nonchalantly. “I’m used to it. That’s just the cost of being engaged and standing for the truth. It’s worth it.”

There’s little doubt that DeSantis is the MAGA crowd’s number-two choice. But if Trump runs, DeSantis is still likely to finish a distant second. And for those who see Trump-DeSantis as a “dream ticket, there are electoral college handicaps to such a pairing, although it’s not illegal.

Besides, with both candidates agreeing on almost every issue, DeSantis wouldn’t bring much to the ticket — not as much as a vice presidential candidate from Pennsylvania or Wisconsin.

But Trump’s availability is by no means assured. His legal problems are escalating, and he will be 78 years old if he decides to run in 2024. So DeSantis is correct in getting an early start on the campaign in case Trump would, for whatever reason, falter.

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