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‘We delivered’: DeSantis lauds record in inaugural speech amid presidential buzz

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves to the crowd after being sworn in to begin his second term during an inauguration ceremony outside the Old Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) Lynne Sladky/AP

‘We delivered’: DeSantis lauds record in inaugural speech amid presidential buzz

Haisten Willis

January 04, 06:00 AM January 04, 06:01 AM

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Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) gave perhaps the most closely watched inauguration speech in the history of his office on Tuesday, with observers looking for clues as to his intentions in 2024 and what he may use as future campaign fodder.

DeSantis delivered a boastful speech before a packed house at the Florida Capitol, repeating the tagline “and we delivered” at one point and decrying Washington bureaucrats at another.

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“When the world lost its mind, when common sense suddenly became an uncommon virtue, Florida was a refuge of sanity,” he said, recounting his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. “In captaining the ship of state, we choose to navigate the boisterous sea of liberty rather than cower in the calm docks of despotism.”

He has not declared any intentions beyond the end of his second run as governor, yet DeSantis is typically mentioned as the biggest challenger to former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination next year.

The size of the inaugural celebration seemed to suggest bigger aspirations.

The ceremony, which was livestreamed on Rumble, featured several dignitaries, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, live cannons, a military flyover, a custom-made logo, and a slogan — “The Free State of Florida.” Monday’s festivities included a candlelight cocktail hour and dinner, and Tuesday included an inaugural ball where donors who contribute at least $50,000 to the Florida Republican Party received special access to DeSantis, according to CNN.

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The speech stayed away from any overt statements about the White House, and both President Joe Biden and Trump went unnamed. Yet James Todd, a politics professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University, said voters reelected him knowing it may be for only two years.

“Most Floridians I know would be disappointed to lose him as governor but not surprised,” Todd said. “He can spend the next year aggressively pushing conservative policies in Florida to bolster his standing.”

DeSantis should avoid any spats with Trump and the “Republican food fight,” Todd added, even though Trump will try to drag him into them, and target the moderate suburban voters who swung the 2020 election for Biden.

An anonymous DeSantis aide told CNN that the governor has no formal plans for ’24, telling the outlet, “He is focused on his second term. In his eyes, there’s no rush.” If DeSantis does announce, it will likely be after the Florida legislative session ends late this spring.

DeSantis pointed to his state’s enormous population growth as proof that his vision works. The Sunshine State has added 622,000 people since 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, almost as many as New York lost (664,000). The governor attributed this to people choosing his state as a promised land of sanity.

“We will never surrender to the woke mob,” he said. “Florida is where woke goes to die.”

Polling continues to show DeSantis in a strong position. He leads Trump 56% to 33% in a head-to-head poll of likely Republican voters, though a crowded primary field could still see Trump win.

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“As a national figure, [DeSantis] will get more scrutiny from the media and other Republicans who are considering running,” said Florida Atlantic University political science professor Kevin Wagner. “Going from state to national-level campaigns is never easy and has proven difficult for other Florida politicians such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.”

Much of the speech contrasted what DeSantis is doing in Florida with what happened in blue states and Washington, D.C., with a strong focus on how his policies provided better results.

DeSantis said “medical authoritarianism” took over among Washington bureaucrats and accused Beltway politicians of going on an “inflationary spending binge” that left the nation weaker and its citizens poorer. Open borders, he said, make a mockery of the rule of law.

“Florida is proof positive that we the people are not destined for failure,” DeSantis said. “Decline is a choice, success is attainable, and freedom is worth fighting for.”

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