DeSantis, at major Republican gathering, vows he’s ‘only begun to fight’

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LAS VEGAS – Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida spotlighted his conservative credentials, touted his achievements in office and pledged to continue his fight as he addressed the annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a major conference of party leaders, activists and mega-donors.

“In the state of Florida, I am walking that line. I am standing my ground. I’m not backing down,” DeSantis emphasized as he spoke Saturday on the third day of the Las Vegas conference. “We’ve done an awful lot in the state of Florida. We have a lot more to do, and I have only begun to fight.”

The conservative governor has seen his popularity surge among Republican voters in his state and around the nation over the past year and a half, thanks in large part to his combative pushback against COVID-19 restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

And he took aim Saturday at President Biden’s efforts to increase the nation’s vaccination rate through mandates.

“We have to stand right now against these Biden mandates,” the governor stressed. “He does not have the constitutional authority to do what he’s trying to do, and if he can get away with this — trust me — you haven’t seen nothing yet.”

“No mandates, no restrictions, we are going to take our freedom back, and we have to do that right now,” DeSantis said to applause.

GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting Nov. 6, 2021 in Las Vegas
(Fox News )

DeSantis, a former congressman who was narrowly elected Florida governor in 2018, isn’t expected to face as challenging a reelection fight. Florida used to be the nation’s toughest general election battleground, but it has increasingly trended red over the past couple of cycles.

“When I got elected governor in 2018 there were about 300,000 more registered Democrats in the state of Florida than Republicans. And as I stand here before you today I can happily report that, for the first time in the history of the state of Florida, we have more registered Republicans than registered Democrats,” the governor said.

Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, speaks during a news conference at a Regeneron monoclonal antibody clinic in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. 
( Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“We have a number-one ranked public university system five years running by U.S. News and World Report,” DeSantis noted, also touting the Sunshine State’s creation of new jobs. 

He also showcased his conservative achievements.

“I’ve appointed five constitutionalists to the Florida Supreme Court. We took the court from being the most liberal court in the United States to now being the most conservative state supreme court in the United States,” the governor said. 

And he noted his efforts to ban sanctuary cities, suing the Biden administration over what he called the president’s “reckless border policies,” signing multiple bills tightening voter accessibility rules and banning the teaching of critical race theory.

DeSantis also took aim at elements in the far left of the Democratic Party over its lukewarm support for Israel, charging that “the woke are anti-Semitic. They are anti-Israel,” which drew loud applause from the audience.

DeSantis was one of eight prominent Republicans speaking at the four-day confab that pundits view as potential 2024 GOP presidential hopefuls. 

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Donald Trump, also spoke. 

Former GOP Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting Nov. 6, 2021 in Las Vegas.
(Fox News )

In a foreign policy-centric speech, Haley blasted the current president, arguing, “You cannot count on the Biden Administration to stop the Iranian nuclear program.”

And she claimed that “the Biden team wants to get back into the business of giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinians and promoting a two-state solution.” 

Haley charged that “the Palestinian leadership has never viewed the peace process as a way of achieving peace with Israel. They have always viewed it as a way to destroy Israel.”

“My promise to you is that I will always be the loud and proud ambassador in support of the United States and Israel,” she pledged.

Haley also pointed to the high policy stakes in the 2022 midterm elections, when the GOP aims to win back majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

“Those elections are about whether we stop socialism, defend our border, return to fiscal sanity and end liberal indoctrination in our schools.  And yes, they are also about standing strong for our best ally in the Middle East,” she said. “Join me in fighting for victory in 2022.”

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