“Florida has become the escape hatch for those chafing under authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions,” DeSantis said, adding that Florida was now “the freest state in these United States.”
DeSantis repeatedly touted his willingness to buck so-called conventional wisdom during his first term — particularly when it came to dealing with the spread of Covid-19 in his state. DeSantis made mention of his decision to re-open Florida schools fully in the fall of 2020.
“We were right and they were wrong,” DeSantis said, in what could easily double for a presidential campaign if/when he runs.
Trump is taking notice of DeSantis’ jockeying.
“I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?'” Trump said. “Because they had the vaccine, and they’re answering like — in other words, the answer is ‘yes,’ but they don’t want to say it, because they’re gutless. You gotta say it, whether you had it or not, say it.”
Which isn’t the first time that Trump has thrown a bit of a blowback pitch at the Florida governor.
What DeSantis’ speech on Tuesday makes clear is exactly how he would position himself in a 2024 race: Trumpism without all of the antics, lies and distractions that the former President creates. The promise is that he will fight the Washington swamp, the “fake news” and those who would make America less free, he will just do it without all of the tweets and the chaos that Trump creates.
Which isn’t a bad argument given where the current iteration of the Republican party now finds itself. DeSantis, of course, would face a major uphill climb if Trump decides to run in two years’ time. But, if Trump — for whatever reason — decides to take a pass, DeSantis could well be in the pole position in the race.
And, as his state of the state speech makes clear, he is gearing up for that possibility.