Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis highlighted his landslide re-election victory and his conservative crude against what he calls "woke ideology" in an energetic speech that brought a crowd of leading Republican activists and donors to their feet numerous times.
"We’ve accomplished more over a four-year period than anybody thought possible," DeSantis touted as he delivered the keynote address on Saturday night in Las Vegas at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting, which is seen as the first major Republican cattle call in the 2024 White House race.
DeSantis, who at age 44 is 32 years younger than former President Donald Trump, won his first election as governor in 2018 thanks to a major assist from the then-president. But he’s become a force of his own as he’s built a political brand that stretches from coast to coast.
Florida’s governor has seen his popularity soar among conservatives across the country the past two and a half years, courtesy of his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a culture wars warrior, as he’s targeted the media and corporations.
While DeSantis for over a year has routinely discounted talk of a 2024 White House bid as he stayed laser focused on his gubernatorial re-election, the governor on Saturday repeated his well-used pledge that "we’ve got a lot more to do and I have only begun to fight."
Pointing to his overwhelming election victory, DeSantis highlighted that "we secured record margins with Hispanic voters. We swept the suburbs all across the state of Florida. Our margins with rural voters were gravity-defying.. We won by double digits Miami-Dade County."
And the governor spotlighted that "we won the highest share of the Jewish vote for any Republican candidate in Florida history."
DeSantis highlighted his record in battling antisemitism and his support for the state of Israel. He talked about holding public events "in Judea and Samaria," making him the first American politician to do so and said to huge applause "I don’t care what the State Department says - it’s not occupied territory, it’s disputed territory."
The governor, pointing to his battle against coronavirus restrictions during the height of the worst pandemic to strike the globe in century, stressed that "we were the nation's citadel of freedom." He argued that when people immigrated to Florida, "they felt like they were arriving in West Berlin from East Berlin."
DeSantis, to a standing ovation, highlighted his fight against "gender ideology" and the Disney Corporatin.
"It is wrong to teach a kid that they were born in the wrong body. It is wrong to teach them that gender is a choice," he argued.
And he touted that "the state of Florida is where woke goes to die"
As DeSantis seen his poll numbers in 2024 Republican presidential polls start to rival Trump, and his fundraising prowess match that of the former president, Trump in recent months has targeted the Florida governor. And Trump turned up the volume on his attacks on DeSantis in recent weeks, debuting a new nickname for the governor: "Ron DeSanctimonius."
DeSantis has refused to take the bait, electing not to engage with Trump’s taunts. And he didn’t mention the former president during his address on Saturday night.
Trump received a very warm reception as he addressed the same crowd remotely earlier in the day, in a speech that was added to the schedule at the last minute.
But DeSantis appeared to be the star of the three-day confab, grabbing the most applause of the speakers.
"When you show people you’re willing to fight for them, they will walk over broken glass barefoot to come vote for you and that’s’ exactly what they did to me," the governor spotlighted.
Speaking ahead of DeSantis was former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration.
Haley repeatedly teased a potential 2024 Republican presidential run, telling the crowd that "between us, I’m just getting started."
"A lot of people have asked if I’m going to run for president," Haley said to cheers. "Now that the midterms are over, I’ll look at it in a serious way."
She reiterated that "I’ve never lost an election and I’m not going to start now," and that "when people underestimate me, it’s always fun."
Haley also touted her record of support for Israel, saying "I was proud to stand up to the bullies and the haters of Israel at the UN. It was the right thing to do."
And she grabbed a standing ovation when she repeated her line that if President Biden "succeeds in getting back in the Iran deal, I will make you a promise. I’ve said it before: The next president will shred it on her first day in office."