Gov. DeSantis opens conservative conference with praise for Limbaugh, no mention of Trump

Gov. Ron DeSantis painted Florida as a leader for conservative values during remarks opening the annual CPAC convention in Orlando on Feb. 26, 2021. Source: Screenshot

Gov. Ron DeSantis opened the American Conservative Union’s annual CPAC conference in Orlando on Friday by urging delegates to follow the example of the late Rush Limbaugh in fighting for conservative policies.

However, during a stemwinder that drew vigorous applause, he never mentioned Donald Trump, his political mentor, who is scheduled to address the conference over the weekend. DeSantis has yet to acknowledge publicly that Trump lost the election.

“The battles ahead will be made more difficult without the voice of one of our greatest field generals, my friend Rush Limbaugh,” the governor said. He had ordered flags flown at half staff at the state Capitol in memory of the late broadcaster.

“Rush displayed the courage of his convictions time and time again. 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,” he continued.

“Standing for the right things comes at a cost. You will be attacked, you will be smeared, and you may even be cancelled by the major organs of the political left. Anyone can spout conservative rhetoric. We can sit around and have academic debates about conservative policy. And I’m not saying you don’t do any of that. But the question is, when the Klieg lights get hot, when the left comes after you, will you stay strong or will you fold?”

The governor, widely considered a potential presidential candidate in 2024 — presuming Trump doesn’t run again — portrayed his state as a national model on factors including COVID-19, its smooth 2020 election administration, and in staring down Big Tech.

He opened with a dig at states that placed their people and economy “under the yoke of oppressive lockdowns” to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

“To those of you who aren’t from Florida, welcome to our oasis of freedom,” DeSantis said.

“Florida got it right, and the lock-down states got it wrong.”

He highlighted efforts by legislative Republicans, with his own firm backing, to restrict use of mail-in voting that more Democrats than Republicans used during last year’s elections, and punish social media and other Big Tech companies for allegedly sanctioning conservatives.

“When our Legislature convenes next month, it will pass and I will sign the most ambitious reforms yet proposed for combatting political censorship and deplatforming, for preventing Big Tech from interfering in our elections, and for safeguarding the privacy of your personal data,” the governor said.

“In Florida, we are not going to let the terms of the debate in our country be set by oligarchs in Silicon Valley.”