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DeSantis praises Florida during trip to California

DeSantis made an appearance in Southern California on Sunday, setting the stage for possible 2024 presidential bid

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announces a proposal for Digital Bill of Rights, Feb. 15, 2023, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks as he announces a proposal for Digital Bill of Rights, Feb. 15, 2023, at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

In an appearance in Simi Valley on Sunday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took a swing at “woke” ideologies, politicians and corporations while laying the groundwork for his likely presidential campaign.

DeSantis delivered his speech while standing under the former Air Force One plane at the Reagan Library, which was used by former President Ronald Reagan as well as six other presidents. He was there to promote his new book, “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival,” as the Los Angeles Times reported.

“I know you guys have a lot of problems out here, but your governor is very concerned about what we’re doing in Florida, so I figured I had to come by,” DeSantis jokingly said, taking a dig at California Gov. Gavin Newsom, which the crowd of around 1,300 responded to with cheers, according to KTLA.

“If you look over the last four years, we’ve witnessed a great American exodus from states governed by leftist politicians imposing leftist ideology and delivering poor results,” he said, referencing the Golden State, per the report. “And you’ve seen massive gains in states like Florida who are governing according to the tried and true principles that President Reagan held dear.”

DeSantis also said his administration will “never surrender to the woke mob,” adding, “our state is where woke goes to die.”

Although the Florida governor hasn’t announced his bid for the presidency in 2024, he is expected to run and his speech served as an audition for GOP attendees.

“We have a big problem with the federal establishment in Washington. It has engaged in an inflationary spending binge that has left our citizens poor and our nation bleaker,” he said.

His speech didn’t mention former President Donald Trump by name, and instead, took shots at Disney, vaccine mandates, tax policies and “indoctrination” in classrooms, as Reuters reported.

But DeSantis’ time in California didn’t go completely smoothly, as roughly 100 protesters gathered at the entrance of the library to show their disapproval of his policies. Meanwhile, the Simi Valley police department reported a vandalism incident at the presidential library ahead of DeSantis’ visit. The graffiti on the entrance sign read “Ron DeFascist” in black spray paint, the police said.

DeSantis also spoke at a dinner party later on Sunday, attended by nearly 1,000 guests, to raise money for the Republican Party of Orange County.

“We raised more money from this event than we’ve raised on any one-night fundraising event in the history of the Orange County Republican Party,” Fred Whitaker, chair of the county party, told ABC News. “So you could say the interest for Gov. DeSantis is off the charts.”

Newsom responded to DeSantis in a statement released on Sunday by welcoming him to the “real freedom state.”

“Just look at the data — California residents are safer, healthier and more prosperous than those unfortunate enough to have you as their governor,” Newsom said. “Oh, by the way, you’re going to get smoked by Trump.”

Most polls show Trump is in the lead over DeSantis in a likely matchup, but a recent survey of GOP voters in California, conducted by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, found the Florida governor leading by a wide margin.

The survey noted that while California leans Democratic, “nearly 2.3 million voters cast ballots for Trump in the state’s March 2020 primary, the most in any state in the nation.”

Trump has already declared his run for the presidency, as has former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy on the GOP side.