HOLLYWOOD, FL. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted President Joe Biden in a fiery address to roughly 1,500 supporters Saturday night at a Republican fundraising event.
With former President Donald Trump holding simultaneous court at an event in Tampa, DeSantis trumpeted his stewardship of the Sunshine State while denouncing “woke” excesses and calling for a red wave in November.
The GOP firebrand and potential 2024 presidential candidate repeatedly mocked Biden by using his disparaging “Brandon” moniker, branding his presidency a wide-ranging “disaster” that has weakened the country.
“Democrats and Brandon, they deserve a big red wave crashing down on them,” DeSantis said as attendees rose from their surf and turf entrees to cheer. “If you look at what we’ve done in Florida, we have stood up to the media, we have stood up to people like Fauci, to Brandon himself.”
DeSantis reprised his backhanded concern for the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis during his speech at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
“We should all extend our best wishes to the President Joe Biden for a speedy recovery from his bout with COVID,” he said. “Hopefully, the United States will have a speedy recovery from its bout with Joe Biden.”
Casting Florida as a bulwark against progressive radicalism, DeSantis touted the state’s less stringent lockdown policies and rejection of vaccine mandates as having preserved its economy.
That approach, he argued, has significantly reddened what has long been a purple state.
“When I got elected governor, there were almost 300,000 more registered Democrats in the state of Florida,” he said. “Today, because of our efforts, there are now 220,000 more registered Republicans.”
DeSantis championed some of his more controversial policy initiatives to the receptive audience — including his ban on instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity to young kids.
Critics — including major corporations like Disney — argued that the legislation foments hostility towards the LGBTQ community and called for its repeal.
But DeSantis reveled in his showdown with the Magic Kingdom Saturday night, arguing that the state’s largest employer was deserving of having its special tax status repealed.
“We do not need to be jamming some left wing sexual agenda down their throats,” DeSantis said of his law that opponents call the “don’t say gay” bill.
In his exhaustive attack on “wokeness,” the former Naval officer even pointed the finger at his own former military branch.
DeSantis said he enjoyed Tom Cruise’s largely apolitical “Top Gun: Maverick” — but that the actual armed forces are veering into ideology.
“Then, you go to the real world, and what is the Navy doing? They have videos about things like pronouns,” he said. “And I’m thinking to myself, you know, China is laughing at us.”
With a slew of law enforcement officials in attendance, DeSantis lobbied against prosecutorial leniency and calls to defund police departments.
“What happens in those areas?” he said. “Crime goes through the roof and the inmates run the asylum. It got so bad that they actually had to recall the district attorney of San Francisco. Even those liberal voters couldn’t stomach it.”
Positioning himself as a party maverick, the polarizing governor took aim at the GOP establishment.
“If Republicans get majorities in the Congress — I’m sick of them talking,” he said. “I’m sick of them telling us what they’re going to do, I’m sick of them going on cable. Because you know in Florida, we don’t just talk, we do.”
Drawing both fierce support and intense opposition, DeSantis has vaulted to the fore of the GOP in recent years, setting up a potential clash with Trump should both men vie for the Republican nomination in 2024.
In keeping with his recent trend, DeSantis did not mention the former president’s name during his address.