ORLANDO – Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida received a hero’s welcome on Tuesday night, as he addressed an audience of leading Republicans minutes before former President Donald Trump announced he was launching a 2024 White House bid.
DeSantis, who last week won a landside re-election victory for a second term steering Florida, garnered a standing ovation from the audience as he delivered a keynote conversation at the Republican Governors Association’s winter meeting in Orlando, according to multiple sources in the room.
According to one source, DeSantis spotlighted his “impressive re-election campaign” and how he won Maimi-Dade County, connecting with Hispanic voters.
Another source told Fox News that governor received an “enthusiastic” response as he “recapped the Florida blueprint and the path to winning Hispanics, women, and independents.”
And a third source added that the speech received a very warm reception from an audience that is energized about the possibilities of taking the DeSantis model and applying it to battleground states across the country.
Multiple sources said that the margins DeSantis was able to run up in his re-election victory last week and his efforts on issues like education and on battling “woke curriculum” received some of the strongest applause of the evening.
While DeSantis delivered his keynote conversation minutes before Trump announced his 2024 campaign, he didn’t mention the former president in his remarks. A source in the room said that Trump “was not even a topic of discussion” in the DeSantis address.
DeSantis, who at age 44 is 32 years younger than Trump, won his first election as governor 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, he potentially dropped some hints last week during his Election Night victory speech.
“We have rewritten the political map,” DeSantis declared. “While our country flounders due to failed leadership in Washington, Florida is on the right track.”
And he took in the scene as a chant of “two more years! Two more years,” broke out among supporters urging the governor to consider a national run in 2024.
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 has turned up the volume on his attacks on DeSantis in the days just before and after the midterms, and debuted a new nickname for the governor: “Ron DeSanctimonius.”
Until Tuesday, DeSantis had refused to take the bait, electing not to engage with Trump’s taunts.
“One of the things I’ve learned in this job is when you’re leading, when you’re getting things done, you take incoming fire. That’s just the nature of it,” DeSantis said in response to a question about Trump at a Fort Walton Beach high school event. “I roll out of bed in the morning and I have corporate media outlets that have a spasm just because I’m getting up in the morning, and it’s just constantly attacking.”
“I think what you learn is all of that is just noise, and really what matters is are you leading, are you getting in front of issues, are you delivering results for people, and are you standing up for folks,” he continued. “At the end of the day I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night.”
If DeSantis decides to launch a 2024 campaign, don’t expect an announcement anytime soon. A source in the governor’s wider political orbit tells Fox News any announcement wouldn’t happen until after Florida’s legislative session ends in May.