Tallahassee— When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis assumed office in 2019, he shocked many his moderate leadership: He fixed a decades-old racial injustice, sided with medical marijuana proponents over GOP leaders, and appointed a liberal Democrat to a crucial state office.
He subsequently focused on the White House and turned right, winning a 2022 reelection blowout and entering the presidential contest. His loud and unrelenting rhetoric centered on how he had defeated the “woke mob” with measures that offended Black and LGBTQ+ Floridians. Even Republicans feared being penalized for opposing his authoritarian rule.
After dropping out of the presidential campaign and returning to rule Florida for two more years, which DeSantis will Floridians see? The subject is being pondered by Tallahassee insiders, but it may not be solved soon.
When you go through a life-changing event like running and losing a presidential primary, it gives you an opportunity to look at who I really want to be and how do I get there,” said Florida Republican political consultant Jamie Miller. “If that answer is still, ‘I want to be president,’ he may have learned that what worked for you in 2022 didn’t work for you in 2024.”
In the last three years, DeSantis has gained national attention for his fight with Disney World over anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, his efforts to limit race and inclusion discussions, and his work with conservatives to keep gender identity and sexual orientation out of classrooms and school libraries.
DeSantis has done nothing to guide the Republican supermajority in the third week of the 60-day Florida Legislature session, unlike other years. While everyone else was ready for session, he was traveling Iowa.
“I thought that it was good that he was preoccupied and let us do our job,” said Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book. It was obvious we were a footnote. I hope they learnt not to stir up culture wars.”
It's not too late for DeSantis to influence the session, but he may let it continue with less emphasis about abortion and firearms and more on the House speaker and Senate president's objectives. Improved health care access and social media restrictions for minors are examples.