DeSantis used Florida’s whirlwind legislative session as a potential presidential launching pad

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a conference titled Celebrate the Face of Israel, Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem, April 27, 2023.

Maya Alleruzo | AFP | Getty Images

Florida’s legislative session is set to end on Friday, capping a 60-day Republican blitz to send key bills to the governor. Ron DeSantis sets the tone for the announcement of his anticipated presidential campaign.

DeSantis, who is widely seen as former Pres. Donald TrumpThe top contender for the 2024 Republican nomination has long been expected to reveal his political plans after the session adjourned. He may announce a presidential investigative committee as soon as mid-May on NBC News informed of Last week.

If he enters the race, DeSantis will run for president on a wave of new state policy that implements much of the governor’s conservative wish list.

Florida’s GOP supermajorities in the House and Senate largely performed well on their own Promise Passing bills on issues ranging from abortion to guns to school vouchers pushed DeSantis’ agenda “across the finish line.”

The legislature became mired in polarizing cultural squabbles that helped elevate the governor to national prominence, bolstering his efforts to craft an image of a leader who takes on hot-button topics and delivers conservative results. Measures DeSantis signed like restrictive abortion laws could help him in the GOP primary, but reduce his appeal in the general election.

Lawmakers also passed several measures that could help clear DeSantis’ path to the White House, if he decides to run.

The legislature voted last week to enact a bust of DeSantis. Discount to the state”design-to-run“law, by allowing candidates to run for president or vice president without leaving their jobs in Florida. Effectively measures another shields DeSantis’ travel records from public view.

“The whole session was focused on Governor DeSantis running for president,” said Jim Clark, senior lecturer and political commentator at the University of Central Florida, in an interview. “The legislature gave him 99% of what he wanted.”

while a republican trifecta empowered DeSantis in Florida, he’s come down heavy fire There seems to be less trend in Trump and Election lifting of the potential primary area questions About his appeal outside his state.

Clark said, “It seems to me that the more voters know Ron DeSantis, the more problems he has.”

2024 competition is in its early stages, the more Candidate Trickle in primary months before first Republican Discussion, DeSantis also holds a major fundraising edge over most of its potential opponents, and some of the biggest names on Wall Street are considering Support Governor if he moves.

‘full steam ahead’

Republicans won a two-thirds majority in the Florida House and Senate in the November midterm elections, at a time when Democrats were underperforming widely across the state. With the legislature and the governor’s mansion being in political alignment and facing few obstacles, state lawmakers churned through legislation with unprecedented speed.

“Once it was given, it went full throttle,” Susan McManus, a veteran Florida political analyst, told CNBC.

DeSantis, in turn, quickly signed many of his priorities into law when he released a biographical book and toured the country in his early steps to the presidency.

One of the most controversial new Florida laws Sanctions On most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, that won’t take effect until the previous 15-week ban is resolved in the courts.

The move enshrines abortion, a top issue in the last election cycle after the Supreme Court Overturned Roe v. Wade will again be front and center in the 2024 presidential race. President Joe Biden in his re-election campaign launch Trump-aligned railed against “extremists” trying to control “what health care decisions women can make”, while Republican contender Nikki Haley called “unanimity“In the abortion-focused stump speech.

DeSantis also signed legislation allowing Floridians to carry concealed carry weapons without a permit. He signed both the abortion and gun bills little fanfare In private settings, facts that critics have noted as they polls highlight the lack of support for both measures.

On top of those issues, DeSantis waded into the “school choice” debate by signing a bill in March. Expansion of Florida’s school voucher system. Proponents of school-choice initiatives say they give some students needed educational options, while critics say they harm public schools. Vouchers are just one front in a widening battle about the rights of parents and children that includes school curriculum And LGBTQ+ Issues,

McManus said he expected the fight to be a major theme of the 2024 election.

Separately, DeSantis signed a bill on Monday making child rapists eligible for the death penalty. He vowed to defend the law up to the Supreme Court, which was banned Death penalty in such cases.

a day later, he signed a measure Prohibiting state and local entities from giving priority to the investment movement known as ESG, The nascent campaign, which broadly refers to investment strategies prioritizing environmental, social and governance factors, has become a target of conservative critics alleging progressive encroachment by major corporations.

McManus said that a full-court press of a supermajority to pass a law from the opening gavel to the end of the session may be unusual, but it is not surprising.

“You have to strike when the iron is hot and that’s why choice matters,” he said.

“Democrats are well aware that their inability to improve their representation in the legislature now [is] Coming home to haunt them,” McManus said.

walt disney war

GOP lawmakers have also supported DeSantis in his long battle with the walt disney company stems from legislation that critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay”. The governor’s feud with one of his state’s largest employers has presidential undertones, as Republicans increasingly seek political appeal by targeting companies taking a stance on social issues.

The battle began a year ago when Disney, under pressure from activists and many of its own employees, opposed a bill that limits classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender ideology.

Shortly thereafter, DeSantis and his associates Have been taken To disband the decades-old Special Tax District that allowed Disney’s Orlando-area parks to essentially govern themselves. The governor’s actions raised fears that residents of neighboring counties could be on the hook. Big Bill.

In February, lawmakers approved a new plan that kept the district largely intact but allowed DeSantis to choose his own board of supervisors. But the new board complained before it could sit, Disney entered into a development agreement that effectively thwarted their power,

Members of the board of governors then voted to nullify Disney’s deal, alleging that it was illegal. disney sued on DeSantis and the board accused the governor, in federal court, of waging a campaign of political vendetta against the company for his speech. Board reverse Days later in state court.

DeSantis’ potential GOP primary rivals have targeted the governor over his fixation on Disney, particularly because of the mess in the courts. Some other Republicans have questioned the governor’s strategy. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last week, “I think it’s better if you sit down and solve the problems.”

DeSantis’ side seems unaffected. GOP legislators have passed measures as recently as this week that oust Walt Disney World and further increase the state’s power over the company.

On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers passed a bill that would void Disney’s development deal. DeSantis is expected to sign it into law.

The legislature also passed a measure that would require the state Department of Transportation to inspect Walt Disney World’s monorail.

Earlier this month, the state education board had given a nod Expansion The controversial Classroom bill at the root of the dispute with Disney. The new rules extend the ban on classroom instruction on sexual orientation to high school grades.

“This bill is not really about protecting children and teachers. This bill is about discrimination against people who are different from you,” state Senate leading Democrat Lauren Book said of the bill, which she called ” Don’t say Gay 2.0″. ,

DeSantis is paying more attention to measures that anger LGBTQ+ activists. He is also likely to sign Just-Pass Bill Targeting college diversity programs and limiting the use of preferred pronouns in schools. State Republicans also approved a bill that would make it a crime for people to use certain bathrooms who do not match their gender assigned at birth. transgender worker says The bill, called the “Safety in Private Space Act,” puts them at risk.

It continues a trend for DeSantis, whose willingness to wield his power for right-wing cultural causes has made him a Republican darling and top name in the presidential rumor mill. His ploy could play well in a Republican primary, where the candidates will likely be based on whoever has the most conservative record on those issues.

Teeing off?

There were deadlocks on some of the key issues on DeSantis’ agenda.

legislation that could have weakened the media’s protections against defamation claims were clearly shelved in what was saw as a blow to the governor. A bill that would lower the minimum age to purchase a rifle to 18 pass in the State House, but faced opposition from Republican Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

DeSantis has nonetheless racked up a long list of political accomplishments in a condensed period, potentially giving him a strong footing from which to launch a presidential bid. McManus said that if the legislature’s goal was to help DeSantis make a White House bid, it had done its job.

Still, it’s unclear whether DeSantis is in a better position for the presidential election than he was 60 days ago.

In addition to passing his conservative-friendly agenda, the governor recently embarked on a campaign-style book tour that heralded his victory, releasing glowing videos promoting his state’s “blueprint” for success and here Even went abroad to meet world leaders.

But his polling gap with Trump, the current frontrunner for the 2024 nomination, has never been wider, according to five thirty eightPrimary Voting Tracker of. The pugilistic former president has taken on DeSantis as his top rival and has spent weeks lambasting the governor on everything from his record in office to his personality. DeSantis is less inclined to turn on Trump, who remains the de facto leader of the Republican Party and commands loyalty from a sizable swath of his voters.

“It’s really weird,” Clarke said. “We’re talking about a guy who got 60% of the vote in Florida, and yet had trouble connecting with people outside of Florida.”

Clark said the situation put him in mind of a classic episode of the long-running cartoon “The Simpsons,” where Homer Simpson became a beloved mascot for his town’s baseball team. He is then hired as the mascot for a big city team, but his antics on the big stage backfire.

“I keep thinking about that,” Clarke said.