On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) gave his state-of-the-state address. The speech was essentially a dress rehearsal for his presidential stump speech. Executive summary: I made Florida conservative again and I can do it for the whole country.
Some of the high points of his speech were:
It sounds a lot like Donald Trump, only formulated more sharply and better focused. This is a result of DeSantis having seen where Trump succeeded and where he failed, his being smarter than Trump (two Ivy League degrees is better than one), and his being a much better politician. He also can point to many more "successes" than Trump (e.g., making Disney back down), in no small part because he very carefully picked battles that he knew he could win (e.g., getting a law passed censoring books in school libraries). That is a lot easier than promising a 1,000-mile wall in very difficult terrain and getting Mexico to pay for it.
The speech was on the occasion of the start of the 2-month legislative session. Florida already has enough laws, so the legislature meets only 2 months a year to consider new ones. Since DeSantis' staff writes the bills, all the legislature has to do is have a few quick legislative committee meetings and then bring the bills to the floor for approval. That doesn't take much time. DeSantis wants new laws allowing open carry of firearms, tort reform, taxes, and banning the Chinese government from buying land in Florida. All of the laws are designed to give the governor something to brag about during the primaries. One of his main themes will be: "Trump had good ideas, but he didn't deliver on them. I delivered in Florida and I can deliver in the White House."
He didn't talk much about abortion, but less than an hour after his address, Republicans in the state House and Senate introduced bills to ban abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy. Those bills may not move quickly, though, because there is an abortion-related case pending in the state courts and the president of the state Senate would prefer to see how that plays out before changing the law. If it needs to be tweaked to make it acceptable to the courts, that can be done before passing it.
In the coming weeks, DeSantis is planning to visit New Hampshire and Iowa to road test his speech. Then when he officially announces in May or June, he will have it fine tuned to get lots of applause. Trump will get a run for his money. He has never faced any opponent who is going to try to outflank him on the right, who is extremely well prepared, and who is willing and eager to fight dirty. Trump may or may not fully understand this, but he has hired some experienced advisers, especially Susie Wiles, who is an expert on Florida politics, and they know what is coming. They know that Trump cannot bully DeSantis as he did Jeb! and Little Marco. DeSantis is a tough as nails and much better focused that Trump himself. It will be quite a battle. (V)