Gov. Ron DeSantis took a victory lap at CPAC on Thursday, touting Florida as a “citadel of freedom” while describing America as a nation under the threat of a new, emerging virus: wokeness.
In a roughly 20-minute speech at the conference in Orlando, DeSantis blasted the media, academia and corporations in jarring terms. They and others, he asserted, are infected with a “new religion” of wokeness and rank conservatives as “second-class citizens.”
The belief is tearing at the “fabric” of society, DeSantis said. It, he added, is a form of “cultural Marxism.”
With conservatives cheering him on, DeSantis urged them to don the “armor of God” and the “shield of faith” as they fight to reclaim the nation in 2024. The stakes, he suggested, are high.
“Their goal is not to make our country great,” DeSantis decried of “the left,” marking his closest reference to former President Donald Trump, who coined the phrase “Make America Great Again.”
“It’s to marginalize the conservative half of the country. They want us to be powerless. They want us to be voiceless. They want us to be second-class citizens,” DeSantis continued.
A nationally renowned GOP Governor, DeSantis took stage like a rock star. After garnering applause with a brief intro video touting his political record against COVID-19 lockdowns and more, DeSantis waltzed onto the stage and tossed hats into the crowd.
And in a speech targeted directly to his conservative audience, he lambasted President Joe Biden and White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci. Biden, he told supporters, hates Florida.
“As Biden flounders, Florida is leading on issue after issue,” DeSantis contended.
DeSantis’ criticism of the pair served as an overture to a lengthy victory lap. Reading off notes, DeSantis paraded his conservative accomplishments.
He crowned the Florida Supreme Court as the most conservative in the nation. He touted Florida’s resistance to the “bio-medical security state” proposed by Fauci.
Among other self-proclaimed accomplishments, he trumpeted his efforts against illegal immigration and his crackdown proposal against riots amid the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
“Florida led when it counted,” DeSantis exclaimed. “We led early on when the weight of the world was coming bearing down on our shoulders.”
Indeed, DeSantis resisted a sea of criticism at the height of the pandemic. He said today’s political climate is more dire than when he first entered politics nearly a decade ago. No mention, though, of Russia or Ukraine.
Once a relatively unknown Congressman, DeSantis said stopping former President Barack Obama was previously his top goal.
“I even wrote a book, which was read by about a dozen people,” DeSantis quipped of the Obama administration. But now, he pivoted, “The threats we face to adjust society are much more pervasive than they were just 10 years ago.”
The Republican Governor’s midday speech comes as prognosticators rank him on the shortlist of 2024 GOP presidential contenders behind Trump.
New polling, though, suggests DeSantis could topple Trump in the Florida Republican presidential Primary.
The survey of 259 Republican voters from the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab showed the Governor with a slim lead inside the margin of error.
Like DeSantis, Trump is slated to speak at CPAC and is expected to place well in the much-anticipated CPAC straw poll, a notable metric among conservatives.
In 2021, DeSantis was second-best to Trump in the straw poll. Trump was the choice of 55%, and DeSantis 21%, if both men were running.
CPAC hosts Matt Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes, touted the event as the “biggest conservative party of the year” minutes before introducing DeSantis.
“He’s made every right move,” Schlapp said. “You name the topic, and with his steady leadership, he’s been a voice for the entire country.”
Trump is expected to speak Sunday.