Ron DeSantis is not in full campaign mode yet, but he is also not sitting still, either. He decided not to go to CPAC and attack Trump like Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo did (see below). Instead he went to an event for big donors in Florida hosted by the Club for Growth (CfG), a group that doesn't like Trump much. CPAC is run by Matt Schlapp (rhymes with "crap"), CfG is run by Charles Koch (rhymes with "smoke"); probably not terribly surprising that a guy from Florida preferred Koch.
At the CfG meeting, DeSantis said: "Some of these Republicans, they just sit back like potted plants, and they let the media define the terms of the debate. They let the left define the terms of debate. They take all this incoming, because they're not making anything happen. And I said, 'That's not what we're doing.'" He was not more specific about which Republicans are like potted plants. We'll probably find out later. The key argument here is that Trump was an ineffective president and didn't deliver, unlike DeSantis, who is delivering more red meat every day than Kroger's butcher.
The purpose of the event is to help CfG decide which candidate it wants to back in 2024. It is very unlikely to be Trump, but it could be DeSantis, Mike Pompeo, or maybe one of the long shots. While DeSantis' speech was well received and got multiple rounds of applause, DeSantis did something else that is characteristic of him and he had better change fast or it will be a millstone around his neck. He arrived late, gave his speech, and left immediately afterwards. He didn't schmooze with the wealthy donors and didn't allow any selfies with them. He will soon discover that even though the donors may like his platform, if they think he is a stuck-up little d**k, they are going to look elsewhere. He isn't any more conservative than Mike Pompeo, but a whole bunch less user-friendly.
DeSantis is going to travel around the country for the next week touting his new book and getting to see how people react to him. If he arrives late, gives a speech, and then leaves immediately everywhere, he will discover that they don't like him so much. His personality and squeaky voice could ultimately be what takes him down. People won't vote for a person they don't like, even if they like what he is selling. Especially when half a dozen other people are selling the same stuff. It is a strange time we live in; can you imagine someone saying 100 years ago, "I like Mussolini's ideas, but he's just not warm and fuzzy enough... and that voice!"? (V)