Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R., kicked off the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year with a roaring speech that paid tribute to his “friend,” the late conservative talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh.
“Rush displayed the courage of his convictions time and time again,” DeSantis said. “Rush was one of the first to fight and win against cancel culture. Rush showed that fighting the left requires strength and that conservatism devoid of backbone is doomed to fail.”
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DeSantis, who ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the late icon’s passing, referred to Limbaugh as “one of our greatest field generals” in the battle for conservatism.
“So at this moment in our history, and I think Rush showed us this, but particularly now, standing for the right things comes at a cost,” he said. “You may be attacked, you might be smeared, you may even be canceled by the major organs of the political left … When the left comes after you, will you stay strong or will you fold?”
DeSantis, who has been widely named as a potential 2024 presidential hopeful, welcomed out-of-state attendees to Florida’s “oasis of freedom” and celebrated the Sunshine State for steering clear of “oppressive lockdowns.”
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“While so many governors over the past year have kept locking people down, Florida lifted people up,” DeSantis said. “In Florida, schools are open. Every Floridian has a right to earn a living and all businesses have a right to operate. And we are stronger as a state and much happier as a people because of this leadership.”
The GOP governor touted the state’s low unemployment and its “great shape” budget, which he noted has “not touched one red cent” from the “rainy day fund.”
“Florida got it right and the lockdown states got it wrong,” DeSantis said.
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DeSantis promoted Florida’s election integrity, pointed to the “11 million” votes that were counted by midnight on the November election, saying “In Florida, your vote counts and we continue to have a process that is transparent and that inspires confidence.”
He took aim at Big Tech and singled out billionaire Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, touting his plan to sign legislation combatting political censorship and safeguarding personal data into law.
“In Florida, we are not going to let the terms of the debate in our country be set by oligarchs in Silicon Valley,” DeSantis vowed.
DeSantis then offered a vision for the future of the GOP.
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“We cannot, we will not go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear,” DeSantis urged conservatives. “We reject open borders and instead support American sovereignty and the American worker. Building a movement on the foundation of amnesty and cheap foreign labor is like building a house on a field of quicksand. We reject weakness in the face of the threat posed by China, including their actions in international trade. We reject military adventurism [and] instead support a strong defense solely for the purpose of protecting our nation and its people.”
The governor concluded, “When you do engage in the battles ahead, hold the line, stand your ground, and don’t ever, ever back down.”