Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fuels 2024 speculation in speech touting state record

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fuels 2024 speculation in speech touting state record

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media in the Florida Cabinet following his State of the State speech during a joint session of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida March 7 2023

Cheney Orr | AFP | Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted Tuesday that his accomplishments have made Florida the nation’s leading state as he set a series of policy goals that fueled even more speculation about his possible presidential run in 2024.

“I can promise you, you haven’t seen anything,” the Republican said at the end of his state of the state address to a joint session of the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee. The event marks the start of the 2023 Florida legislative session, which will last through May 5.

DeSantis, widely regarded as former President Donald Trump’s top rival for the Republican presidential nomination, is expected to wait until the end of the legislative session to announce his plans for the White House.

The Republican supermajorities in the state legislature will help DeSantis pass an agenda that could span a wide range of conservative cultural issues and fuel hype about his political future.

Republicans won supermajorities in both houses of the Florida state legislature after the midterms in November, when the Sunshine State’s Democrats woefully underperformed. Leaders of the state’s House of Representatives and Senate have vowed to work hand-in-hand with DeSantis to “get his agenda across the finish line.”

Some of those agenda items could include approving measures to carry a concealed gun in public without a permit — dubbed “constitutional carrying” by supporters, including DeSantis — as well as expanding the highly controversial law restricting discussion of sex and sex in public schools include, derided by critics as “Don’t Say Gay”.

DeSantis began his 30-minute speech by declaring that “Florida is number one,” and went through a long list of the state’s superlatives under his administration. Noting that Florida is currently the fastest growing state in the nation, he touted its economic growth and high tourism rankings.

He also cited his high-profile political struggles over Covid safety rules – as he pushed for public health-related lockdown measures to be lifted – and classroom teaching.

“We are number one in the nation for freedom of education. We are the number one nation in parental involvement in education,” DeSantis said in the speech. “We have banned Covid shooting mandates in schools.”

Those moves, which caused major clashes with Democrats and other critics, quickly propelled DeSantis to GOP superstardom and earned him a landslide re-election victory in November.

He also called for a “strengthening of parental rights,” arguing, “Our schools must provide good education, not political indoctrination.”

And he advocated permanently abolishing sales taxes on baby supplies so “one child will be tax-free,” while indirectly pointing to possible targets of abortion policy, declaring, “We are proud to be anti-life in the state of Florida.”

DeSantis has called Florida a “blueprint” for America, suggesting its state-level actions are a recipe for national success. He’s spun that narrative in a new political memoir and the recent release of a campaign-style video in which he touts his accomplishments in Florida — two strong clues that he’s preparing a White House bid.

Polls consistently show that Trump and DeSantis are the two most competitive names among the expansive list of possible Republican candidates in the 2024 election.

If he runs for president, DeSantis will join an expanding peloton that already includes Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Others, including former Vice President Mike Pence, are considering their own presidential campaigns.

DeSantis will reportedly be visiting Iowa on Friday as part of his book tour. Trump visits the state three days later to deliver an education policy speech.

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2023-03-07 22:26:47