Ron DeSantis took office for a second term as Florida governor on Tuesday, amid his rise as the potential top alternative to former President Donald Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential primary.
DeSantis spoke for about 15 minutes after he was sworn in, making no mention of a possible presidential run, but positioning his administration as the bulwark against Democratic leadership at the state and federal levels.
“It is now often said that our federalist constitutional system with 50 states capable of pursuing their own unique policies represents a laboratory of democracy,” he said. “Well, these last few years have seen a great test of governance philosophies, as many jurisdictions have followed a very different path than we have followed here in the state of Florida.”
DeSantis spoke about his administration’s agenda from his first term, promoting his handling of the pandemic, education reforms and pushes for law enforcement while criticizing Democratic actions on all three fronts and labeling his state as the place where “the awakening is going to die”.
“Florida is proof positive that we the people are not destined to fail,” he said.
Early polls on the potential 2024 Republican presidential field, which, so far, officially includes only Trump, show DeSantis as his main rival, with some surveys even showing the governor of Florida with an advantage. Trump has bristled with the governor’s rise, publicly ridiculing DeSantis and promoting polls showing the former president in the lead. DeSantis has not publicly responded to Trump, nor has he made any public acknowledgment of interest in a presidential bid.
At a meeting of the Republican Governors Association in November, shortly after DeSantis’ landslide re-election victory, Republicans who spoke to NBC News suggested it was a question of when, not if, the governor would launch a 2024 bid.