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Will 2023 lawmaking session become 2024 launchpad for Gov. Ron DeSantis?

'If you're looking for a theme, we're going to continue to deliver results in big transformative ways,' House Speaker Paul Renner says
Posted at 6:58 PM, Feb 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-17 18:58:45-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — This week saw former Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina step into the 2024 GOP presidential primary, adding more fuel to the fire that Florida's governor will be among the next to jump. Though, for the moment, his lips are sealed.

"Wouldn't you like to know," Gov. Ron DeSantis said when asked about his presidential ambitions earlier this week.

What we do know is that the Republican is ticking off many boxes on the quintessential White House checklist. A book is coming soon along with many out-of-state stops —Texas, California, Alabama and Illinois among them.

Plus, DeSantis is pressing lawmakers to deliver a robust agenda in the upcoming lawmaking session.

His goals are vast, and what pundits have said are stuffed with "red meat." They include curbing "woke" banking, higher education prohibition of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs, tort reform, improved defamation protections, a "Digital Bill of Rights," and $2 billion in tax breaks.

"Maybe, if you're looking for a theme, we're going to continue to deliver results in big transformative ways that make peoples' lives better," House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said this week.

Renner believed the March session would address many issues for Floridians, including helping ease what members of both parties consider to be an affordability crisis in the state. But will their bills also aid one Floridian in particular, creating a 2024 presidential launch pad for DeSantis? Renner dismissed the suggestion.

"I don't think so," he said. "I am having a blast. I think we're doing things that I care a lot about, that the governor also cares a lot about. He's led us so well through COVID and you saw the election result. People applauded that."

Political experts, however, see the session as very important to the governor. They said it would be a chance to stack up GOP victories for his base if the Republican supermajority delivers, which is expected.

Leaning on the session does have a price tag — time and money. Florida's 60-day assembly runs until May, which could keep a DeSantis White House bid on hold until June or later. That'll give other candidates a chance to jump in and start fundraising.

That's not all.

DeSantis might face further distractions with a new hurricane season on the horizon, and there is a chance legislators will need to go into overtime with an additional special session to tweak bills or address issues like property insurance.

Meanwhile, the latest national polling of Republican voters shows DeSantis has solid support. Among Republican voters, Quinnipiac University gave him 36% to former President Donald Trump's 42% when placed in a candidate pool of 14. The gap was within the poll's 4% margin of error when narrowed to only four candidates with DeSantis registering 41% and Trump 43%.