DeSantis highlights Florida as success amid speculation about 2024

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis laid into the federal government and Democratic-run states, and portrayed Florida as “a citadel for freedom,” “where ‘woke’ goes to die,” and as an overall model for the country, in the inauguration speech Tuesday for his second term.

Desantis, who is often floated as a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, ridiculed what he called a “floundering federal establishment in Washington D.C.,” highlighting the inflation rate, its response to COVID-19, and the migrant crisis at the southern border – all frequent criticisms of President Biden’s tenure by Republicans nationwide. He said many Americans are “pessimistic about the country’s future.”

“Florida is proof positive that we the people are not destined for failure. Decline is a choice. Success is attainable, and freedom is worth fighting for,” he said.

The governor contrasted himself with other Democratic-run states, noting Florida has a high net-migration rate, and he disparaged other states “embraced faddish ideology” exemplified by criminal justice reform that “coddled criminals” and “medical authoritarianism in the guise of pandemic mandates and restrictions.”

“The policies pursued by the states have sparked a mass exodus of productive Americans from these jurisdictions, with Florida serving as the most desired destination, a promised land of sanity,” he said.

DeSantis’ inauguration speech to over 3,000 attendees was the only public event in a two-day affair to celebrate the beginning of his second term as governor, as well as an opportunity for political donors to get access and face time with the potential 2024 candidate.

On Monday night, there was an intimate candlelit dinner with donors and members of the governor’s cabinet that was catered by Carbone, an Italian-American restaurant that originated in New York City and opened a location in Miami during the pandemic, according to one event attendee.

Before his speech, DeSantis held a “Florida Faith Leaders Prayer” event. Tuesday afternoon, Florida first lady Casey DeSantis held a “Toast to One Million Mamas” event to thank and recognize a coalition of women voters she worked to turn out during DeSantis’ 2022 campaign.

On Tuesday evening, there will be a larger inauguration ball with donors and supporters.

There were inauguration fundraising packages that ranged from $25,000 to $1 million, with five of the $1-million-dollar packages available. The money raised will go to the Florida Republican Party.

One attendee said there’s a “lot of energy and interest” in this inauguration compared to past ones because of DeSantis’ political stature heading into the 2024 election cycle.

But Rick Wagner, a Florida Atlantic University political scientist, said DeSantis seemed to keep “most of his powder dry” by not making any obvious remarks suggesting a 2024 run.

“I think everyone wanted more clues as to the choices he’s going to make about what he’s going to do in the future, and I don’t think he really gave us any of that,” he said. “He focused on the issues that he and his campaign believed were successful in Florida. And it’s hard to argue too much with that, he had a very successful run.”

Florida was a bright political spot for the Republican party during an otherwise lackluster midterm performance in 2022. DeSantis’ gerrymandered Congressional map helped the Republican party gain four more seats in the U.S. House and helped secure a thin majority. His nearly 20-point-win over Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist was the largest margin of victory for the position since 1982.

DeSantis has proven to be an effective fundraiser as well, collecting nearly $200 million for his reelection effort, with $5.5 million of that coming in November 2022 alone.

His campaign reported about $60 million cash on hand after his reelection victory, which could be transferred to a committee to support DeSantis if he decides to run for president in 2024.

DeSantis batted down any plans for 2024 during his re-election campaign, focusing instead on the legislative session in 2023, where his new Republican supermajority could take action on everything from taxes, to what asset managers invest in, to constitutional carry of a firearm, to further abortion restrictions.

Democrats already have their eye on DeSantis. Democratic National Committee spokesperson Ammar Moussa put out a statement before DeSantis’ inauguration remarks that criticized the Florida Legislature’s potential abortion ban bill and DeSantis’ investigation into any “wrongdoing” related to the COVID-19 vaccines and its efficacy.

“As the 2024 GOP primary shapes up, it’s clear Republicans will race to out-MAGA each other, and DeSantis is no different,” Moussa said.

The Florida Legislature is scheduled to convene in March and adjourn in May, after which DeSantis could potentially jump into the 2024 fray.

Trump took aim at his potential primary rival in November 2022 when he called him “Ron DeSanctimonious.” DeSantis brushed it aside, and said in November 2022 “at the end of the day, I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard.”