Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida delivers his State of the State address on Tuesday – the same day when state lawmakers kick off their 2023 legislative session in Tallahassee.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” DeSantis has said as he’s looked ahead to the upcoming Florida legislative session, where a newly elected GOP super majority stands ready to pass the governor’s conservative agenda.
The governor, who saw his popularity soar among conservatives across the country over the past three years due to his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a culture warrior going after media, corporations and teachers unions, won an overwhelming 19-point reelection victory in November.
DeSantis has showcased that his reelection victory and his slew of legislative wins have “transformed” Florida from a top general election battleground “into the nation’s leading red state.”
The governor, who’s widely expected by political pundits to launch a Republican White House run later this year even though he currently remains on the 2024 sidelines, in recent speeches has been spotlighting that his policy victories in Florida can serve as a roadmap for the entire nation.
And more are likely to come over the next two months, with the legislature likely to pass new bills that would prohibit gender studies classes and diversity programs at state universities, expand through eighth grade the current controversial ban on teaching sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, and ban the use of preferred pronouns from kindergarten through 12th grade.
DeSantis may also sign into law bills that make it easier to carry a firearm and easier to impose the death penalty in certain cases, increase state funding to transfer undocumented migrants to other states, and cut taxes.
But the governor’s agenda in Florida isn’t preventing him from traveling across the country as he highlights his “Florida blueprint” and promotes his newly released book, “The Courage to Be Free.”
DeSantis last year routinely dismissed talk of a 2024 White House run, but he’s dropped plenty of hints since his reelection victory.
Sources in DeSantis’ wider orbit have said any presidential campaign launch would come in the late spring or early summer, after the end of the legislative session. But the governor’s latest travel itinerary, which will take him to the states that kick off the GOP presidential nominating calendar, are sparking more speculation about an increasingly likely White House run.
“You can fight back, and you can beat these people. Because in Florida, we’ve beaten them time and time again, on education, on lockdowns, you name it, we’ve come out on top,” DeSantis said Thursday evening as he pointed to his culture wars crusade against the left, the mainstream media and what he characterized as “woke” corporations.
DeSantis made his comments as he headlined the first day of an “economic retreat” organized and hosted by the politically influential fiscal conservative group the Club for Growth. The group’s gathering, which attracted more than 100 of the biggest donors in the Republican Party, was held at an exclusive beachfront resort in the upscale southeast Florida seaside community of Palm Beach.
The governor then made a two-day swing through Texas, meeting behind closed doors with leading donors at an event in Houston and headlining the Dallas County and Harris County Lincoln Reagan dinners.
“They know you don’t mess with Texas — and you don’t tread on Florida,” DeSantis said at the Harris County GOP gathering.
DeSantis targeted progressive states and their leaders Sunday at a conservative bastion in one of those states, addressing a large crowd at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
“If you look over the last four years, we’ve witnessed a great American exodus from states governed by leftist politicians imposing leftist ideology and delivering poor results. And you’ve seen massive gains in states like Florida who are governing according to the tried-and-true principles that President Reagan held dear.”
On Friday, DeSantis makes his first trip to Iowa. The governor will make stops in Des Moines and Davenport, where he’ll be joined by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa.
GOP sources told Fox News recently that trips by DeSantis to New Hampshire, as well as South Carolina and Nevada – which hold the third and fourth contests in the Republican presidential nominating calendar – are likely in the early spring.
Most public opinion polls in the burgeoning GOP nomination race, including one released a week ago from Fox News, indicate DeSantis in a top tier, trailing only former President Donald Trump, with everyone else in single digits.
Asked about his 2024 timeline last week on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” DeSantis pointed to the upcoming legislative session and his book tour and said, “Those are what we’re going to be doing over these next few months. As we get beyond that, then we can decide from there.”