HOOVER — Although he has not formally announced a bid for the White House, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) made what could have been interpreted as a speech that laid the groundwork for a presidential campaign Thursday night for the Alabama Republican Party's winter dinner.

After a brief introduction from fellow Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, DeSantis rattled off a long list of conservative victories for the Sunshine State under his leadership before the capacity crowd of at least 1,600 at Hoover's Finley Center.

Although many states took Draconian measures to combat COVID-19, DeSantis argued under his leadership, Florida resisted implementing a heavy-handed approach.

"You can be right on all the policies, but if you don't have the courage of your convictions, you're not going to beat the left," he said. "For us, having the courage to lead has been an indispensable ingredient for Florida's success. Just look at COVID, and I'm proud to say of all the things we've done."

"We've done a lot and are proud of a lot, but when the world went bad during COVID when common sense was an uncommon virtue, Florida stood as a refuse of sanity, a citadel of freedom, not just in our state but in the United States and throughout the world," DeSantis continued. "We refused to allow our state to descend into some type of Faucian dystopia, where people's rights were curtailed. We chose freedom over Faucism."

DeSantis got perhaps his loudest applause of the evening while discussing Florida's economy. He compared his state to New York State, which has much higher taxation and a larger state budget but a smaller population.

However, he also pointed out the Sunshine State does not have an income tax, a policy he suggested for Alabama.

"Of course, people want to come to a state where we respect taxpayers, where we're not going to tax them into oblivion," he said. "I can tell you, as long as I'm around, we're not going to have a state income tax. You guys should try it. It works pretty good."

DeSantis cited Florida's efforts to improve public safety, curtail illegal immigration and challenge the so-called woke agenda, including critical race theory and stripping Disney of the privileges it had acquired with the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

"You have no right to force the citizens of Florida to subsidize your woke activism," he said of Disney.

The Republican audience reacted positively to the DeSantis speech, which lasted for nearly 47 minutes. Among those in attendance included U.S. Sen. Katie Britt (R-Montgomery), members of the Alabama Legislature and other Republican elected officials from all over the state.

An announcement is expected later this year should DeSantis decide to seek the Republican nomination for the presidency. That could set up a showdown against former President Donald Trump with Alabama as one of the first truly Republican battleground contests in the 2024 primary cycle.

Jeff Poor is the executive editor of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.

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