Gov. Ron DeSantis opened his second four-year term on Tuesday with a speech that heralded Florida as a conservative blueprint for the rest of the country and subtly signaled his long-rumored ambitions for the White House.
Speaking from the steps of the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee minutes after being sworn in, Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, made no direct mention of a potential presidential campaign in 2024. His 16-minute address during his second inauguration was peppered instead with suggestive lines that hinted at contrasts with former President Donald J. Trump, a fellow Floridian who is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Mr. DeSantis, 44, criticized a “floundering federal establishment” for a “spending binge” that “left our nation weaker,” without differentiating between increases under the Trump or Biden administrations. Similarly, he assailed the federal government for “pandemic restrictions and mandates” that “eroded freedom and stunted commerce.” Many restrictions were put in place when Covid-19 first spread during Mr. Trump’s time in office.
Mr. DeSantis has publicly questioned the science that federal health officials used to encourage vaccinations. And he has battled with Florida school districts, including in Republican counties, that defied his executive order to ban mask mandates in classrooms.
“We lead not by mere words, but by deeds,” Mr. DeSantis said, calling the Republican-led state “the land of liberty and the land of sanity.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis and His Administration
- Reshaping Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has turned the swing state into a right-wing laboratory by leaning into cultural battles.
- Eyeing 2024: Polls show Mr. DeSantis gaining strength in a hypothetical Republican presidential primary. But the issue of abortion is a potential point of vulnerability on his right flank.
- Voter Fraud: A crackdown on voter fraud announced by the governor seems to have ensnared former felons who were puzzled that they were accused of violating voting laws.
As he ticked through a list of benchmarks during his first term, Mr. DeSantis repeated the same phrase — “We delivered” — seven times during the first five minutes of his speech. He sought to claim credit for the state’s economic success and population gains, and draw attention to his 19-point margin of victory in November over former Representative Charlie Crist, a Democrat.
Mr. DeSantis has not said whether he will run for president. At a debate during his re-election campaign, he refused to commit to serving a full four-year term.
On Tuesday, he promised a second-term agenda that would deliver “record tax relief” for Florida families and further lean into the cultural battles that have brought him national attention, Republican support and Democratic criticism.
As governor, Mr. DeSantis led the charge to prohibit discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in early elementary school and limit what schools and employers can teach about racism. He stripped Disney, long an untouchable corporate giant in the state, of the ability to govern itself for the first time in more than half a century — retaliation for the company’s opposition to the crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. conversations with young schoolchildren.
Mr. DeSantis offered no new specific policies in his speech, vowing only to “enact more family-friendly policies” and to lead the fight for “freedom.”
In the audience was Jeb Bush, the former governor who came up short in his presidential bid in 2016. Mr. Bush ushered in a modern Republican era in Florida in 1998 with his first election as governor. Since then, Democrats have never recaptured the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee.
On a breezy, 72-degree day, Mr. DeSantis was sworn in at about 11:15 a.m., joined by his wife, Casey, 42, and their three children: Madison, 6; Mason, 4; and Mamie, 2. Mason buried his head in his mother’s light green dress as she held a Bible for her husband.
The Bible Mr. DeSantis used to take the oath of office was a Bible of the Revolution, the first complete Bible in English to be printed in America, according to Sotheby’s. Glenn Beck, the conservative commentator, posted on Twitter that he lent that Bible to Mr. DeSantis for the inauguration.