Ron DeSantis visits Southern California 1 year removed from Super Tuesday
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited Southern California on Sunday, welcoming Gov. Gavin Newsom to his own backyard amid an expansion Republican primary battle before 2024.
“I know you guys have a lot of problems out here, but your governor is very concerned about what we’re doing in Florida, so I figured I had to stop by,” DeSantis said, speaking to a crowd of over a thousand people at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library’s Air Force One Pavilion and drew loud applause.
But it was not a warm welcome from everyone. The Simi Valley Police Department said Sunday that library staff discovered black spray paint on an entrance sign that read “Ron DeFascist” in the early morning hours.
Authorities said employees were able to remove the paint before DeSantis’ arrival. Soon after, however, a large contingent of several dozen protesters took to the sidewalks in front of the library to protest his speech.
DeSantis’ visit to the Golden State follows two days spent in Texas raising money for the Harris and Dallas County Republican parties and exactly one year away from Super Tuesday, when voters in both states will head to the polls to cast their ballots for a 2024 presidential candidate.
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Although DeSantis has not officially entered the race for the Republican nomination, he is widely seen as a potential favorite by many. A recent UC Berkeley/LA Times poll released last week showed him leading former President Donald Trump by eight points in next year’s California primary.
In a statement issued Saturday before his arrival, Newsom sarcastically welcomed DeSantis to the “real state of freedom.”
“The citizens of California are safer, healthier and more prosperous than those unfortunate enough to have you as their governor,” he said. “Oh, by the way, you’re going to get smoked by Trump.”
During his speech, DeSantis took the opportunity to draw a stark contrast between his state and California, as well as other Democratic states such as New York and Illinois.
“I think it goes back to this woke mind virus that has infected the left and all these other institutions,” DeSantis said. “I mean, think about the way they’ve run the states. They put things like woke ideology over the tried and true principles that President Reagan stood for and that most Americans believe in.”
After his speech in Simi Valley, DeSantis traveled south to Orange County to speak to over 900 donors at the Westin Anaheim Resort in a closed event.
“We raised more money from this event than we have raised at any one-night fundraising event in the history of the Orange County Republican Party,” said Fred Whitaker, chairman of the county party. “So you could say interest in Governor DeSantis is off the charts.”
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Areas like Orange County and Simi Valley provide ample opportunity for potential Republican candidates like DeSantis to rub elbows with some of the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful GOP members ahead of 2024.
“We are the county with the most Republican donors; we are the county that remains, as far as urban counties go, the most competitive for Republicans; we control over two-thirds of all elected offices in Orange County and yet” is at the heart of LA basin,” Whitaker said. “I think if you have any interest in running for president, you need to talk to Orange County’s Republican donors. You need to talk to Orange County Republican voters.”
According to OpenSecrets, DeSantis brought in nearly $4 million from California alone in the middle of his 2022 gubernatorial re-election campaign, outpacing even more conservative states like Texas. Although California is a liberal stronghold, it could carry significant weight in a GOP presidential election.
Between its winner-take-all status and the number of delegates it offers — more than any other state — California could be crucial for any candidate hoping to make it through Super Tuesday amid a potentially crowded GOP field.
“California, by moving its primary from June to March for the 2024 presidential election, will have a very different dynamic than there was in 2016,” Whitaker told ABC News. “In 2016, when the primaries happened, the nomination was already decided. Super Tuesday is right at the heart of it.”
Ron DeSantis visits Southern California 1 year removed from Super Tuesday originally appeared on abcnews.go.com