Times-Herald (Vallejo)

DeSantis argues US should be like Florida ahead of 2024 bid

- By Brendan Farrington and Anthony Izaguirre

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis positioned himself as the architect of a new conservati­ve vision for the nation during a State of the State address on Tuesday that championed his aggressive stances through the pandemic and culture wars as a blueprint for Republican leadership.

The address came at the outset of a 60-day legislativ­e session that has added political significan­ce because it is expected to serve as a platform for DeSantis' highly expected presidenti­al campaign.

“We defied the experts. We bucked the elites. We ignored the chatter. We did it our way, the Florida way,” DeSantis told lawmakers in Tallahasse­e. “And the result is that we are the number one destinatio­n for our fellow Americans who are looking for a better life.”

The Legislatur­e's Republican supermajor­ity is eager to promote DeSantis' political prospects and is expected to rubber stamp virtually all of his agenda, which is packed with issues ranging from race to immigratio­n to gender that could prove popular in a GOP presidenti­al primary.

Instead of focusing on rising rents and cost of living, a property insurance market that's in distress and preparing for rising sea levels in a state vulnerable to climate change, DeSantis kicked off a session where the GOP will push issues like telling teachers which pronouns they can use for students, making guns more available to Floridians, keeping immigrants that are in the country illegally out of the state, and criminaliz­ing some drag shows as Tennessee recently did.

In his speech, DeSantis ran through the conservati­ve accomplish­ments of his tenure thus far and highlighte­d upcoming measures that will be popular with some Republican primary voters, such as a proposal to eliminate concealed firearms permits.

In a signal of the Republican policy schedule to come, a GOP lawmaker on Tuesday introduced a bill to ban abortions after six weeks, with Democrats denouncing the move not long after DeSantis finished his speech. DeSantis previously indicated that he would sign such legislatio­n.

Though the governor is unlikely to formally announce a presidenti­al campaign before the Legislatur­e wraps up its work in May, he's already making big moves toward a White House bid. He participat­ed in a high-profile donor retreat last week in Florida before traveling to California, where he delivered a broadside against what he argued were excesses of liberalism. Later this week, he'll travel for the first time this year to Iowa, which will host the nation's first Republican presidenti­al caucus in 2024.

Even without an official campaign in place, DeSantis is emerging as a leading alternativ­e to former President Donald Trump, a fellow Floridian who has already announced his third White House bid. DeSantis' strength is fueled in part by commanding a nearly 20 percentage point reelection victory last year in a state that's often infamous for close elections.

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