The 2023 Florida Freedom Summit, hosted by the Florida GOP, took place on Nov. 4 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida. More than 3,000 people attended the summit, which featured speeches from former President Donald Trump, Governor Ron DeSantis, former Governor Nikki Haley, former Governor Chris Christie, Senator Tim Scott, and other conservative leaders.
The summit was produced in partnership with Rumble, a video platform that has been popular among conservatives who feel censored by other social media platforms. Rumble CEO Chris Pavlovski spoke at the summit and announced that Rumble would be the official video platform for the Florida GOP and its candidates. He said that Rumble would provide a “free speech alternative” to YouTube and other platforms that have been accused of suppressing conservative voices.
Almost all of the leading Republican presidential candidates took advantage of the opportunity to appeal to Florida voters and set themselves apart from the competition. Florida is a crucial state for the Republican Party, as it has 29 electoral votes and has been won by Trump in both 2016 and 2020. The candidates participating also had to sign the necessary documents to be listed on the Florida ballot.
The speeches at the summit ranged from praising Trump and his policies to criticizing him and his influence on the party. Trump, who closed the evening with an hour-long speech, touted his accomplishments as president, his strong ties with world leaders, and his endorsement of DeSantis. He also attacked President Joe Biden and his administration, calling them “a disaster for our country.” He repeated his claims of election fraud and vowed to “make America great again.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is widely seen as Trump’s heir apparent and a frontrunner for the nomination, praised Trump for his leadership and thanked him for his support. He also highlighted his achievements as governor of Florida, such as keeping the state open during the pandemic, banning vaccine mandates and passports, protecting free speech and gun rights, and cracking down on illegal immigration and crime. He said that Florida was “the freest state in America” and that he would continue to fight for freedom.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who was absent from the summit due to a family emergency, sent a video message in which she expressed her admiration for Trump and his policies. She said that Trump had made America stronger and safer and that she had worked with him as his ambassador to the United Nations. She also criticized Biden and his foreign policy, saying that he had weakened America’s position in the world and emboldened its enemies.
Former New Jersey Governor Christie, who was one of the most vocal critics of Trump at the summit, faced boos and jeers from the crowd as he challenged Trump’s claims of election fraud and his influence on the party. He said that the party needed to focus on the problems facing the country and not on “pettiness” and “anger.” He said that he respected Trump but disagreed with him on some issues and that he was not afraid to speak the truth. He also presented himself as a pragmatic leader who could work across party lines and solve problems.
Florida Senator Tim Scott, who is also the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, spoke about his efforts to help Republicans win back the Senate in 2022. He said that he was working to recruit strong candidates who could defeat Democrats in key states. He also praised Trump for his economic policies and his support for law enforcement and veterans. He said that Republicans had a clear agenda to restore prosperity, security, and freedom in America.
Other speakers at the summit included former governors Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, former Attorney General Pam Bondi, several members of Congress from Florida and other conservative activists and leaders.
Organizers targeted the Florida Freedom Summit 2023 to be a showcase of the diversity and strength of the Republican Party and its presidential candidates. While successful, it also reflected the challenges facing the party as it prepares for the 2024 election. The summit underscored that Florida is a key battleground state for both parties and that its voters will have a significant role in shaping the future of America.