Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis arrived at President Trump’s “Make America Great Again Event” in Sanford Monday evening, with video on Twitter showing the governor giving high fives to the crowd as the maskless couple entered the venue.
Other video show an enthusiastic crowd crammed together cheek by jowl and, again, largely maskless, at the Orlando Sanford International Airport to hear a president whose own status as a potential COVID-19 spreader was unclear.
The governor addressed the throng, beginning with a shout-out to Christopher Columbus on his what sometimes is still called Columbus Day.
“We’ve made America great, but we can be greater still,” he said.
“Ultimately, we have to choose. Do we want to continue making good progress and making strides, or do we want to embrace American decline as represented by the likes of Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer?”
He referred to Trump’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court of Amy Coney Barrett, who began confirmation hearings earlier in the day before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “They need to answer the call and they need to fill that seat,” DeSantis said of the Senate.
“You know, the Democrats are going to cry, they’re going to complain, they’re going to say it’s not fair,” he said. But he referred to the Democratic “smear” of Republican nominees Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh and said: “So I don’t care what they think is fair. We’re going to confirm her and they’re just going to have to deal with it.”
The GOP controls the Senate and White House and so has the power to fill the seat, he said. And he demanded that Biden answer whether if elected and gains a Democratic Senate and House he’ll seek to add justices to the high court to redress the power imbalance there.
“Are you going to do that, Joe? Yes or no? Answer the question.” DeSantis said.
He also attacked the news media, taunting: “If you’re such a guardian of democracy, why can’t you get an answer to a simple question [of Biden]: Will you pack the court or no?”
The media don’t want the answer, DeSantis continued, because they are “running interference” for the Democrats, “which is their party.”
Also on the ballot, the governor said, is whether Biden will be in a position to “shut down” the economy to contain COVID. DeSantis himself, following Trump’s lead, has more or less repudiated his own stay-home orders restricting business activities and the schools and universities.
“That would ruin millions of lives. It would cost many lives, and it’s totally unacceptable,” he said. “We cannot let that happen.”
He also picked up the president’s “law and order” rhetoric as opposed to “rioting and looting.”
“As these American cities were ablaze, Biden didn’t step up, he didn’t exercise any leadership. Because the fact of the matter is he wasn’t really opposed to what they were doing. Now he says he is. But when it counted he didn’t lift a finger.”
Trump’s speech went over some of the same issues and some of the same insults over the years.
He called former Vice President Joe Biden “Sleepy Joe” and Hillary Clinton, “crooked Hillary.” Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump said: “Sleepy Joe wants to quadruple your taxes,” and continued to claim that a Biden presidency would be socialist and Marxist.
The crowds were rowdy, with signs showing “4 More Years” and “Make America Great Again.”
As to Florida, Trump said: “Twenty-two days from now, we’re going to win this state.”
Florida Phoenix editor Diane Rado contributed to this report.