Speaking at the California GOP's convention in Anaheim, just a stone's throw from the Magic Kingdom, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis could be forgiven for cracking a few Disney jokes.
"I'm a little close to Disneyland. I don't know if they'd let me come to that," he said, drawing laughter.
His evening remarks also came hours after the convention's main event—a speech by former President Donald Trump, who's so far in front that he could soon reach escape velocity in the 2024 contest. His speech alone sold 1,500 tickets, according to a convention staffer who spoke with The Epoch Times. Many Trump supporters gathered outside the hotel where their candidate of choice made his appearance.
Although Mr. DeSantis has sometimes hesitated to criticize his top competition for the Republicans' 2024 slot, he tweaked a moment in former President Trump's speech when he said that he and not Mr. DeSantis had "turned Florida red."
"All I will say is, Ronald Reagan made the point [that] there is no limit to what you can do when you don't care who gets the credit. I just wish, if he was the one who turned Florida red, that he wouldn't have turned Georgia and Arizona blue, because that's not been good for us," the governor said.
The comments follow the governor's condemnation of former President Trump for not attending the second presidential debate on Sept. 27, which took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
"Donald Trump is missing in action," he said on stage at the debate in Simi Valley.
DeSantis Versus Newsom ReduxTurnabout may be fair play in this case. Just days ago, both before and after the Simi Valley showdown, California's chief executive roamed the media-choked "spin room," taking shots at his rival to a variety of journalists.
"What Biden is doing are things that California was doing many years ago. What California is doing now is likely what a second Biden term would do, or, God forbid, Kamala Harris, or, God forbid, Newsom himself. Who knows, right?" Mr. DeSantis said, before reiterating his frequent calls to fight what he characterized as a state of national decline.
As in Long Beach, he called California a "petri dish" for the left.
With his debate against Mr. Newsom himself slowly approaching, Mr. DeSantis criticized everything from California traffic to crime.
"We've run into like six or seven people that have gotten mugged," Mr. DeSantis said.
He also drew attention to the Golden State's population decline. Florida, by contrast, is growing.
"The debate about what state is governed better, Florida or California, that debate has already been answered by people voting with their feet," Mr. DeSantis said.
"The media will say, and the left will say, that if a parent objects to a book in fourth grade that is pornographic, and you remove that book from the fourth-grade library, they'll claim that's 'banning the book.' First of all, in Florida, there's nothing banned. You as an adult can knock yourself out with that adult material. Just don't do it to the kids. Leave our kids alone," he said.
Mr. DeSantis questioned a number of proposals in California, including the Legislature's recent attempt to mandate that judges weigh what parents think of a child's gender identity when resolving custody disputes.
"They're going after the rights of parents, even tried to pass a bill recently to take away custody of a kid from a parent if the parent did not indulge transgenderism with them," he said.
'Prevent World War III'"I'm the only candidate who can make this promise to you. I will prevent World War III. And we're much closer than anyone knows," former President Trump said in his remarks.
That evening, Mr. DeSantis spoke in more careful terms about how his administration might handle one key geopolitical adversary.
"We'll [be] able to say that our country remains the world's leading superpower, that our military is strong, and that we will have successfully fended off the threat posed by Communist China. This decade is going to be decisive into how we navigate that confrontation. Under current course, under President Biden, we are probably going to end up getting in a war with China that we would lose. That's not going to happen when I'm president, and we'll be able to look back eight years hence saying we did it right," he said.
"You can have the best constitution in the world. You can have the best Declaration of Independence in the world. These things do not run on autopilot. They require each generation of Americans, when tested, to step up and to defend freedom and yes, in certain instances, to put on a uniform, to risk your life, and indeed give that last full measure of devotion in service to the greater cause. We are not doing justice to their sacrifices and their memories if we allow this country to continue its descent," Mr. DeSantis said.
The authors argued that "the 1970s concept of an all-volunteer force has outlived its shelf life and does not align with the current operating environment" and then suggested that a move toward "partial conscription" could become necessary.