TALLAHASSEE — Ron DeSantis will be sworn in to his second term as Florida’s 46th governor on Tuesday, and it’s already seen as the start of his presidential audition.
DeSantis has positioned himself on the national stage as a likely front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, but that requires him to campaign for a new job while barely entering his second four-year term for his current term. The potential political outlook has many watching how he will capitalize on his newfound stature.
Will he continue to lean on the culture wars agenda, or will he broaden his message and moderate his combative stance by reviving some of the unifying themes of his first inauguration in 2019?
“People are excited not only about this opening, but what it means – and that’s a governor who believes in a free market and allowing businesses and people to live their lives freely and without intrusion,” said Brian Ballard of Ballard Partners, one of the co-chairs of the opening events, along with Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting, Bill Rubin of Rubin Turnbull & Associates and Jeff Hartley of Smith, Bryan & Myers. They are among the largest lobbying firms in the state capital.
A speech of importance
After the swearing-in, DeSantis will deliver his first public address since his election night address when he declared Florida is the “where awake dies” state. For many, it can be a blueprint for his future.
“Like many others, I will check to see if there are any signs of reaching a national audience or if the speech is more focused on Florida issues,” said Kevin Wagner, a political scientist at Florida Atlantic University. “If it has a broader national reach, the speech may give us some early clues as to what type of campaign Gov. DeSantis would be waging if he competes in the presidential primary, and what groups and potential donors he will be targeting in the early campaign.” .”
Among the questions: Does he continue his rhetoric against diversity training in companies and governments? Is he calling for immigration reform, as US Senator Marco Rubio has advocated, or claims reform, as US Senator Rick Scott has called for? Is he raising his call for an investigation into mRNA vaccines?
Does he mention the war in Ukraine or does he show suggestions for dealing with inflation and the national economy? Is he talking about balancing the budget and tackling the government deficit? Is he focusing on Florida’s pressing issues — the rising costs of insurance, housing and healthcare? Or is he concentrating on his last four years?
“People will look for clues to future plans in the speech,” Wagner said. “But I suspect we won’t get many answers.”
Four years ago
In his first inaugural address, DeSantis addressed approximately 3,000 people for 20 minutes and vowed to “overcome the tribalism that dominates our politics.” He said he would promote a “virtuous cycle” that involves cutting government excesses with a focus on “low taxes, a sane regulatory climate, a sane legal system and a healthy environment” to (to) attract jobs, business and investment.” . And he propagated an agenda that would prioritize education and the environment.
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But as the pandemic ravaged Florida’s tourism-dependent economy amid a bitter re-election campaign for Trump, DeSantis’ former political mentor, the governor He moved away from the centrist appeals of his first inaugural address and launched a 30-month strategy that appealed to public frustration over COVID-19 lockdowns and evolving public health messages about the novel coronavirus.
COVID became DeSantis’ launch pad for a new breed of Republican message, one that turned to big government to expand power over institutions disliked by the political right.
For example, he used his executive power and a compliant legislature to enact legislation barring cruise lines from requiring masks and requiring employers to require vaccinations and training that promote concepts related to race, gender or national origin. He also worked to restrain government pension investment in companies that adopt “environmental, social and governance standards” to promote economic equality and environmentally sustainable policies.
These and other messages helped DeSantis significantly increase his political standing from four years ago – when he won the election by the narrowest margin in Florida history – to winning re-election in November by the widest margin in 40 years.
“Unlike any other governor’s inauguration I’ve attended, I think it’s the continuation of a governor changing the country, and that’s a rare thing,” Ballard said. “He gives a voice to so many Americans who are fed up with political correctness, tired of having to bow to what the ‘awakened’ community says we all need to believe.”
Ballard expects DeSantis to expand on those issues and “talk about the model that Florida has become for the country.”
The view from the political left
Anders Croy, a spokesman for DeSantis Watch, formerly joint accountability project of left-leaning Progress Florida and Florida Watch, said he expects DeSantis to use his speech “to move further to the right.”
“There will be a focus on contentious issues that appeal to far-right voters out of state rather than issues that really matter to Florida residents,” Croy said.
He predicted that DeSantis’ speech will focus on his “essential Iowa checklist,” which includes pushing for more abortion bans, supporting carrying guns without a permit without background checks, and vaccine safety.
“Here in Florida, we have an affordability crisis when it comes to housing, an affordability crisis in property insurance, an affordability crisis in health care, but you don’t hear those things from the governor,” Croy said. “What you’re hearing is more red meat for New Hampshire and Iowa voters that he believes will help him take the next step up the political ladder.”
Hans Hassell, executive director of the Department of Politics at Florida State University, said DeSantis’ speech will also send a signal to Republican Party officials about how far they should go to support DeSantis in the face of a likely primary against former President Donald Trump DeSantis single-handedly raised in 2018 by backing him over front-runner Adam Putnam in the Republican primary.
The party is likely struggling to “understand what it needs to do to win the presidency in 2024 and not do as badly as it did in the 2022 midterm election,” Hassell said. “The party elite begins shaping the race well before voters begin voting, and Governor DeSantis’ actions now can go a long way to showing that he’s the type of candidate they can trust and care about their ideas will begin.”
In many ways, the governor’s inaugural address is a test of the national stage, he said, because it “can influence the willingness of the party elite to commit the critical resources, both the money and the political expertise and media connections, to transform their current position into a successful one.” Run to convert the Republican nomination.”
Ballard, who has worked on inaugurations for former governors. Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott aren’t expecting DeSantis to announce his political ambitions Tuesday but he sees DeSantis’ profile as unique.
“Other than Ronald Reagan, I don’t know of any American governor who has been able to capture America’s attention the way Governor DeSantis has,” he said.