ORLANDO, Fla. (AP/WESH) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott both spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on International Drive on Friday.
“Welcome to our oasis of freedom,” DeSantis said.
Capitalizing on the fact that Florida was one of the few choices to hold the gathering, DeSantis said while so many states have been locking people down, Florida has lifted people up.
“Every Floridian has a right to earn a living and all businesses have a right to operate,” DeSantis said.
What the governor did not say is that if Florida was a country, it would rank No. 9 in the world in the number of COVID-19 cases at 1.8 million, and with deaths at more than 30,000.
“Florida is leading in protecting our vulnerable residents, saving the economy and safeguarding the freedom of our people,” DeSantis said. “In Florida, schools are open.”
DeSantis said he aims to pass new laws to make it easier for people to sue Twitter, Facebook and others in response to social media companies silencing former President Donald Trump.
As the Republican Party grapples with deep divisions over the extent to which they should embrace Trump after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress, those gathered at the annual event made clear they are not ready to move on from the former president — or from his baseless charges that the November election was rigged against him.
“We will not win the future by trying to go back to where the Republican Party used to be,” echoed Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the fundraising committee tasked with electing Republicans to the Senate. “If we do, we will lose the working base that President Trump so animated. We’re going to lose elections across the country, and ultimately we’re going to lose our nation.”
Scott is dismissing pressure on him to “mediate between warring factions on the right” or “mediate the war of words between the party leaders.” He has refused to take sides in the bitter ongoing fight between Trump and McConnell, who blamed Trump for inciting the deadly Capitol riot but ultimately voted to acquit him at his impeachment trial earlier this month.
“I’m not going to mediate anything,” he said, criticizing those who “prefer to fan the flames of a civil war on our side” as “foolish” and “ridiculous.”
Donald Trump Jr., who labeled the conference “TPAC” in honor of his father, hyped the return of his father and the “Make America Great Again” platform to the spotlight.
“I imagine it will not be what we call a ‘low-energy’ speech,” he said. “And I assure you that it will solidify Donald Trump and all of your feelings about the MAGA movement as the future of the Republican Party.”