ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis drew wild cheers from an enthusiastic audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, touting his state’s resistance to COVID lockdowns and mandates and his rejection of the left-wing ideology and political correctness that has come to dominate Democratic politics and the Biden administration.
“As Biden foundered, Florida is leading on issue after issue,” Mr. DeSantis told the CPAC crowd.
Mr. DeSantis delivered the opening keynote address of the four-day conference, which provides a platform for potential 2024 presidential candidates to audition before the party’s most conservative audience.
The Florida governor is running for a second term but is viewed by many as a leading candidate for the GOP ticket in 2024.
Mr. DeSantis made no mention of his own political ambitions but touted his leadership in the Sunshine State, where the economy is thriving, tourism is booming and he‘s given left-wing policies the boot.
Mask and vaccine mandates were banned months ago and schools have remained open. Mr. DeSantis has spoken out against critical race theory and blocked the federal government from sending illegal immigrants to Florida by threatening to reroute them to Mr. Biden’s home state of Delaware.
“We protected people’s rights,” he said. “We protected people’s jobs, we protected small businesses and we made sure that every kid in the state of Florida had an opportunity to go to school in person five days a week.”
Mr. DeSantis told the crowd he’s taken steps to ensure election integrity, giving a nod to those in the CPAC crowd who believe 2020 election irregularities gave Mr. Biden an unfair advantage over former President Trump. He has banned ballot harvesting and the unsolicited mass mailing of election ballots, among other steps aimed at shoring up election security.
“We counted 99% of the ballots by midnight on election night,” he told the crowd. “It was transparent, it was fair and we did a good job. But we also understood there were a lot of shenanigans in other parts of the country.”
Mr. DeSantis kicked off four days of events with keynote addresses from rising GOP stars. The list includes former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.
Former President Donald Trump will cap off the event with a speech Saturday night.
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