DeSantis has started his presidential campaign tour

Pittsburgh

Fresh off the campaign stage in Arizona, where he opposed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis traveled to Pittsburgh for another Turning Point Action rally. This one was supposed to be for Doug Mastriano (DeSantis was heading to Ohio for JD Vance right after), who is challenging state Attorney General Josh Shapiro to replace Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf — but his speech sounded like every word a DeSantis 2024 presidential speech.

Polls suggest Mastriano needs all the help he can get, as Shapiro – who has already spent $12 million on ads – leads Mastriano – running a “restricted campaign” – by a healthy margin (one poll recent has Shapiro in the lead by fifteen points). But DeSantis barely mentioned Mastriano.

“The Governor of America” ​​(as DeSantis was introduced) began his thirty-five-minute monologue on Florida supremacy by letting the locals know he was one of them. Like a presidential candidate would. DeSantis’ father hails from nearby Aliquippa and, having been born in the late 1970s during the glory days of the Pittsburgh Steelers gridiron, DeSantis is also a Black and Gold fan. He has a baby photo of himself in a Steelers costume to prove it, which appeared on the big screen to the cheers of the packed house of “yinzers” (another localism used by DeSantis for the occasion).

Next was a slideshow of DeSantis’ greatest hits: a photo of the government—which looked pretty sexy, I must say—with his arms folded in uniform in front of a Humvee taken during his younger military years. There was also a photo of him looking like Babe Ruth hitting a home run to remind everyone that DeSantis was playing college baseball. What these anecdotes — or DeSantis’ prediction/warning that many viewers will end up living in Florida — had to do with Mastriano is anyone’s (very obvious) guess.

DeSantis ticked off each conservative talking point one by one, as if reading a Newsmax viewer opinion poll and addressing all concerns. He attacked Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and started or ended most sentences with “what we did in the state of Florida…”. He spoke about getting tough on crime and uniting in support of all Republicans, with a special shoutout to GOP Senate candidate Mehmet Oz.

DeSantis’ recurring goal, however, and the topic that drew the loudest cheers, was to fight Covid mandates and awaken the culture. He listed the ways Florida stood up to “the woke crowd,” namely: waiving special treatment from the Disney Corporation following the Parental Rights Act uproar in education, banning critical theory of race in schools, promoting parents’ rights, establishing an initiative to educate children about American citizenship, and to instruct children about the consequences of communism “and how it destroyed so many societies”.

DeSantis called the CRT ban the most important issue his administration has worked on, saying schools must “educate our children [rather than] indoctrinate them” on topics such as “awakening gender ideologies”. Returning time and again to issues that concern children, DeSantis spoke of the “mind bug” of woke ideologies “totally divorced from reality,” citing University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas as an example. who swam on the men’s team for three years. years, to become champion after moving to the women’s team.

“We must never give in to woke ideologies,” DeSantis said. “The State of Florida is where the revival is going to die.”

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

DeSantis 2024 implied, the governor concluded with a “go get ’em!” closer on courage. As a political leader, you “must be prepared to be brave enough to face the woke crowd, fight the cancel culture – that’s what’s needed right now”.

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

We have an obligation to the people who fought for us to be a free country to continue the good fight, DeSantis concluded. Mastriano gave a brief introductory speech for DeSantis, in which the not-super-articulate retired Army Colonel with Bruce Willis vibes vowed to outlaw the CRT, revoke a third of Wolf’s warrants, to “fight like hell for school choice”, to end the Covid “the blows rule for jobs”, make bathrooms attributed to people’s anatomy, ensure election integrity and “have our beautiful law enforcement backs”.Most of his appearance, however, consisted of his wife speaking about women’s rights, and for DeSantis, Mastriano was an occasional, forced reflection afterwards.

I asked a dozen attendees who they would rather run for president in 2024 – Trump or DeSantis? Most answered “Trump” without hesitation. A couple hesitated and could not provide an answer. One woman said she would be happy with either – “whoever can win”. And a few people said they dreamed of a DeSantis/Trump ticket.

Turning Point folks asked at the event’s pre-speech pep rally, “Are there any ultra-MAGA conservatives here?” (the crowd went wild). And the Turning Point employee checking press credentials had a sticker on his laptop of Donald Trump giving a thumbs up. As we were all chased out of the room, the group in front of me was talking about DeSantis. “He sounds presidential,” said a 30-year-old. His companions accepted. A few people I spoke to said they didn’t think Trump was “done yet,” that he had been stripped of his presidency and still had work to do.

There are the NeverTrumpers, and then there are the Forever Trumpers. Whether Republicans are convinced of DeSantis 2024 is uncertain, but what is certain is that Ron DeSantis himself is assured of his prospects and intentions two years from now.

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Herman C. Harkins