By Emily Goodin, senior US political reporter in Manchester, New York
23:59 14 April 2023, updated 01:21 15 April 2023
- Two women attacked Ron DeSantis during a speech in New Hampshire
- “Jews vs. DeSantis,” they shouted
- DeSantis is gaining national attention amid speculation that he will run for president
Two protesters ran onto the stage Friday night as Ron DeSantis addressed a New Hampshire GOP fundraiser, prompting security to rush after them.
The Florida governor looked startled as the two young women ran out and began unfurling a banner. They made it to the podium where he was speaking before security stopped them.
“Jews vs. DeSantis,” they shouted. “Jews vs. Desantis.”
Several security guards ran to the stage to remove them, pulling them out of the room as the governor resumed his remarks. DeSantis watched in quiet wonder at the spectacle around him as the women were drugged behind him and led away.
He shrugged, “There should be some spice in the speech, right?”
“You should have some fun,” he continued.
He added that he didn’t know why people would pay the price of a fundraiser ticket to make such a move – tickets were $150 each – but added “different punches for different people”.
The audience applauded him. The protest happened within the first five minutes of his speech.
DeSantis was criticized last year when he refused to condemn Nazi demonstrations near Orlando. He blamed his own political opponents trying to “smear me as if I had something to do with it.”
Many Republicans in the state condemned the protests, but DeSantis remained silent. He claimed his political opponents were trying to “use this as some kind of political issue”, adding: “We are not playing their game”.
The protesters on the stage weren’t the only ones targeting the Florida governor Friday night. There were also demonstrators outside the hall in Manchester, waving Donald Trump signs.
DeSantis has gained national attention amid speculation that he will run for president next year.
He had a controversial tenure in Florida. He kept the state open during the COVID pandemic, earning cheers from conservatives and criticism from medical experts. He has also stopped Florida schools from teaching gender issues.
On Thursday night, he signed a controversial abortion bill that bans the procedure after six weeks, long before most women know they are pregnant.
Democrats threatened to prosecute him over the matter.
“Signing the abortion ban is the latest sign in DeSantis’ long record of cruelty — and Planned Parenthood advocacy and political organizations will make sure it’s a record the public doesn’t forget,” said Jenny Lawson, executive director of Voices for Planned Parenthood in a statement .
New Hampshire is one of the few states where DeSantis leads Trump in polls for the 2024 presidential race. However, the former president has seen his numbers rebound as he stands trial in New York on charges related to the payment of secrets porn star stormy daniels money.
The Florida governor has not officially announced that he is running for president in 2024. But he is on a book tour that many see as a precursor to such a campaign. It takes him to key early voting states like Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire.
DeSantis heads to South Carolina next week, another important stop in the Republican presidential primary.
Florida’s governor spent most of his remarks praising New Hampshire for its “Live Free or Die” motto, reminding Granite State voters that the people of Florida value freedom, too.
And he talked about what he did to preserve it, highlighting how he kept the state open during the pandemic and how he took on the Walt Disney Company.
“We are proud to have stood up for freedom over the past few years, especially when it wasn’t easy. We did it our own way and we’re proud of it. But I have to admit, we draw inspiration from the people here in New Hampshire,” he said.
“We’re Americans, right? Isn’t freedom in our DNA?”
After his speech, he was given a gift basket of maple syrup products.
“I have three kids who love waffles and pancakes,” he said in thanks.
According to New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Chris Eager, DeSantis spearheaded the state’s most successful GOP fundraiser in its history.
“We raised over $382,000,” Ager said at the Amos Tuck dinner. “The biggest one yet.”
He also said $132,000 of that came because DeSantis asked his supporters to contribute.
The ballroom was packed with just over 500 people, according to the party count.
After his remarks, DeSantis spent nearly an hour in the ballroom shaking hands, taking selfies and signing copies of his book.
“This is so exciting,” one woman squealed after taking a picture with the governor.
DeSantis will spend the night in New Hampshire and hold in-person meetings on Saturday. The state is known for its first presidential primary in the country and often gives the winners the momentum they need to continue in the race for the GOP nomination.
Tickets were sold for $150 each or $500 for a VIP ticket. DeSantis joined the VIP reception before his speech to take photos with the high-profile donors.
The dinner is named after Amos Tuck, who many believe was the founder of the Republican Party in 1850 in Exeter, New Hampshire.