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Florida Gov. DeSantis begins second term with spotlight on presidential ambitions | CNN Politics

Tallahassee, Florida

When Ron DeSantis takes the oath of office on the steps of the Historic Capitol at noon on Tuesday, far more will be looming than his second term as Florida governor. His speech, along with his agenda, will be seen through the prism of a potential 2024 GOP presidential bid.

The strength of DeSantis’ reelection victory in November – the widest margin a Florida governor’s race has seen in four decades – has made him a beacon for Republicans in a year filled with missed opportunities and disappointments. And at 44, he remains one of the party’s youngest prospective White House hopefuls, with his national ambitions on full display during two days of inauguration festivities in Tallahassee that are playing out under the slogan, “The Free State of Florida.”

Monday played host to a candlelight cocktail hour and dinner, while Tuesday will mark an inaugural ball, aides say, where donors who contribute between $50,000 and $1 million to the Republican Party of Florida will be given special access to the governor and VIP treatment. After the swearing-in, first lady Casey DeSantis is scheduled to lead “A Toast to One Million Mamas” to honor the women who worked and volunteered on the campaign.

While the inauguration is taking on greater significance than a typical second-term swearing-in ceremony, a senior aide to DeSantis told CNN that the governor he has made no firm decisions about his future and is in no rush to jump into a 2024 campaign.

“He is focused on his second term. In his eyes, there’s no rush,” the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations in DeSantis’ closely controlled orbit. Any potential announcements are not expected until after the Florida legislative session ends in May.

The cross-state rivalry with former President Donald Trump hangs over every move DeSantis makes. Their relationship traces back to the future governor’s 2018 primary campaign, when an endorsement from Trump helped the little-known lawmaker leapfrog early frontrunner Adam Putnam, then the state agricultural commissioner, to win the nomination. A viral ad featuring DeSantis and his family, including two young children, highlighted his allegiance to Trump.

But as talk of 2024 swirled in recent months, the pair grew increasingly at odds. Before and after the midterm election, Trump derided DeSantis as an “average governor” and mocked him with the would-be nickname, “Ron DeSanctimonious.”

For his part, DeSantis has sought to downplay Trump’s criticism, describing the comments as “just noise.”

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