ORLANDO, Fla. (WESH/The Hill) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke Thursday afternoon from the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando.

DeSantis began by saying lots of people like to criticize Florida, but plenty are happy to visit for the “freedom.”

The governor boasted about his anti-lockdown stance.

“We protected people’s rights, we protected people’s jobs, and made sure every kid in the state of Florida had an opportunity to go to school in person,” he said. “Freedom has prevailed in the Sunshine State.”

The governor said “if Florida had not led the way,” the country would probably look like Canada.

Nearly 70,000 Floridians have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

“My duty is to stand up and protect the jobs of the people I represent,” DeSantis said. “I’m not going to try and protect my own hide.”

DeSantis took aim at President Biden, whom he claimed “hates Florida.” He took several shots at Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, saying at one point that he “refused to let this state descend into some kind of Faucian dystopia.”

“He doesn’t like Florida and he doesn’t like me because we stand up to him,” DeSantis said.

The governor claimed Florida has the highest budget surplus and lowest tax burden in the country.

DeSantis went on to rally against critical race theory. A bill banning the academic concept in Florida’s public schools passed in the state House before the governor took the stage at CPAC.

“We are not going to teach our children to hate themselves and hate each other,” the governor said, in an extreme view of CRT.

As the governor was speaking, President Joe Biden was addressing the nation following Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. DeSantis made no mention of Russia or Ukraine.

Finally, he called for the audience to “put on the full armor of God,” in preparation for the fight against Biden and the liberal agenda.

“You’ll be met with flaming arrows, but the shield of faith will stop them, you will emerge victorious,” he said.

The headlining appearances of Trump and DeSantis shine a light on the increasingly complicated relationship between the two Republican Party leaders.

While DeSantis owes his election in 2018 largely to Trump’s support, their relationship remaining friendly is far from certain.

Already, there is chatter that DeSantis could be destined to run for president, perhaps as soon as 2024.

A recent poll from The Associated Press-Center for Public Affairs Research found that while 71% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Trump, a smaller percentage — 56% — want him to run again in 2024. The poll found 44% of Republicans do not want Trump to run.

Meanwhile, a recent NBC poll found that, by a 20-point margin, Republicans now identify more as supporters of the Republican Party than supporters of Trump — a reversal from the sentiment before the 2020 election.

There have been rumblings between Trump and his former protégée, with Axios reporting that the former president called DeSantis “dull,” an ingrate, who has no chance of beating him in a 2024 showdown.

DeSantis also declined to take sides earlier this month in Trump’s war with former Vice President Mike Pence over the potential “overturning” of the 2020 election.

“It’s tough for the governor to be his own man if Trump keeps thinking he made him who he is,” a top Florida Republican told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss tensions between the two men. “But the governor doesn’t need Trump anymore. He respects him, but he doesn’t need him.”

DeSantis joins a host of other names speaking from the Republican conference, including former President Donald Trump, Rep. Andy Biggs, Mark Walker, Sens. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Marsha Blackburn, and Mike Braun, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Matt and Mercedes Schlapp.