Hints of 2024 pitch in DeSantis inaugural address

The Florida governor touted his administration’s work over the past four years.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden listen to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speak as they arrive to tour an area impacted by Hurricane Ian on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Fort Myers Beach, Fla. Casey DeSantis the wife of the governor listens at left. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In his inauguration address Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) called Florida the land of liberty and sanity as he leaned into the culture war themes that helped re-elect him by nearly 20 points and hinted at the contours of a possible 2024 presidential run.

While he did not make any mention of ambitions for higher office, his speech appeared to be an overture to Republicans around the country as he highlighted the successes of the conservative-run state.

It came two months after former President Donald Trump announced his own White House bid and with DeSantis running second in national polls of the GOP nomination.

“When the world lost its mind, when common sense suddenly became an uncommon virtue, Florida was a refuge of sanity, a citadel of freedom for our fellow Americans and even for people around the world,” DeSantis said after being sworn in to a second term.

DeSantis celebrated his pandemic-era positions and took aim at other states for falling in line with federal guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Anthony Fauci. DeSantis made Florida one of the earliest states to lift lockdown orders and among the earliest to return to in-person schooling, while refusing mask mandates in schools.

He reiterated his mantra against “woke ideology,” saying it has no home in Florida. That has manifested itself in efforts to ban critical race theory from school curriculum, to give parents more say over what is taught, and to bar instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

“We seek normalcy, not philosophical lunacy,” DeSantis said. “We will not allow reality, facts and truth to become optional. We will never surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die.”

DeSantis took issue with the federal government, which he called the “floundering federal establishment in Washington, D.C.” He blamed it for inflation, as well as for a surge in immigration that is “burdening communities and taxpayers throughout the land.”

DeSantis touted the state’s population surge — it increased by 1.9% to 22.2 million between 2021 and 2022, surpassing Idaho, the previous year’s fastest-growing state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — as evidence of his administration’s success and its popularity beyond Florida’s borders.

“These last few years have witnessed the great test of governing philosophies, as many jurisdictions pursued a much different path than we have pursued here in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “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.”