SIMI VALLEY, CA (Reuters) – Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took his fight against liberalism deep into the Democratic territory of California on Sunday, part of a national road show as he lays the ground for an expected White House bid.
DeSantis has been meeting with wealthy donors in recent days and burnishing his national credentials in a series of speeches boasting about his achievements in Florida while lambasting the “woke ideology” of leaders in Democratic strongholds including California and New York.
DeSantis, who is expected to announce a presidential run in the next few months, has made a war on liberalism a central theme of his governorship and a way to appeal to the Republican base.
While he has not yet announced a White House bid, one candidate who has – former Republican President Donald Trump – clearly views DeSantis as a major potential threat as the Republican nominating contest kicks into gear. Trump has already launched personal and political attacks on DeSantis as the race for the Republican Party’s 2024 White House nomination begins to heat up.
DeSantis, speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library about 50 miles north of Los Angeles, made a veiled reference to the chaos of Trump’s presidency and his defeat to Democratic President Joe Biden in 2020.
“You don’t see drama and palace intrigue,” DeSantis said of his governorship in Florida. “You see surgical precision and execution.”
DeSantis, who narrowly won election to the governor’s mansion in 2018, touted his landslide re-election in November.
He attacked Democratic governors and leaders as being infected with a “woke mind virus.” The term “woke” has become shorthand among opponents as left-wing ideology run amok.
He decried their policies on tax, vaccine mandates, and classroom “indoctrination.”
DeSantis also took aim at the Walt Disney Co, which opposes a Florida law that restricts classroom instruction of gender and sexual orientation.
Last month he signed a bill that takes control of a special tax district surrounding Walt Disney World that for half a century allowed it to operate with a high degree of autonomy.
“There’s a new sheriff in town,” DeSantis declared, referring to what he has called the end of Disney’s “corporate kingdom.”
Other candidates expected to jump into the Republican primary race include former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Nikki Haley, Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, declared her candidacy last month.
(Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Richard Chang)