Florida Governor Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media in the Florida Cabinet following his “State of the State” address during a joint session of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida, on March 7, 2023.
Cheney Orr | AFP | Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday boasted that his achievements have made Florida the nation’s top state as he laid out a set of policy goals fueling yet more speculation about his possible run for president in 2024.
“I can promise you this: You ain’t seen nothing yet,” 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 Florida’s 2023 legislative session, which will last until May 5.
DeSantis, who is widely seen as former President Donald Trump‘s top rival for the Republican presidential nomination, is expected to hold off on announcing his White House plans until the end of the legislative session.
The Republican supermajorities in the state legislature will help DeSantis pass an agenda that could span a wide array of conservative cultural issues and could juice the hype surrounding his political future.
Republicans gained supermajorities in both chambers of the Florida state legislature following the November midterms, when Democrats woefully underperformed in the Sunshine State. Leaders of the state’s House and Senate have vowed to work hand-in-glove 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 carry” by supporters, including DeSantis — as well as an expansion of the highly controversial law limiting discussion of sex and gender in public schools, derided as “Don’t Say Gay” by critics.
DeSantis began his 30-minute speech by declaring that “Florida is number one” and cycling through a lengthy list of the state’s superlatives under his administration. He noted that Florida is currently the nation’s fastest-growing state and touted its economic growth and high tourism rankings.
He also referenced his high-profile political fights over Covid safety rules — when he pushed to lift public health-related lockdown measures — and classroom instruction.
“We rank number one in the nation for education freedom. We rank number one in the nation for parental involvement in education,” DeSantis said in the speech. “We have prohibited Covid shot mandates in schools.”
Those moves, which prompted major clashes with Democrats and other critics, quickly propelled DeSantis to GOP superstardom, netting him a landslide reelection victory in November.
He also called for “fortifying parents’ rights,” arguing, “our schools must deliver a good education, not a political indoctrination.”
And he advocated for permanently eliminating sales taxes on baby supplies so that “having a child will be tax free,” while making an oblique reference to possible abortion policy aims by stating, “We are proud to be pro-life in the state of Florida.”
DeSantis has framed Florida as a “blueprint” for America, suggesting that his state-level actions pose a recipe for national success. He spun that narrative in a new political memoir and the recent release of a campaign-style video touting his achievements in Florida — two strong hints that he is readying a White House bid.
Polls consistently show Trump and DeSantis are by far the two most competitive names among the sprawling list of possible Republican contenders in the 2024 election.
If he runs for president, DeSantis will join an expanding primary field 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 is reportedly set to visit Iowa on Friday as part of his book tour. Trump is visiting the state three days later to give a speech on education policy.