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DeSantis targets Trump’s base in upcoming Florida session

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit on July 22, 2022, in Tampa.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit on July 22, 2022, in Tampa. Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... President Biden calls for extending solvency of Medicare through 2050 by allowing program to negotiate prices for more drugs and by raising taxes on income above $400,000. ... Biden administration considers restarting family detention for migrants. ... China’s foreign minister warns that conflict is inevitable unless U.S. changes course. ... Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers his State of the State address. ... And remembering what Kevin McCarthy said about the Jan. 6 attack one week after it took place.

But first: Florida’s upcoming legislative session gives us a big clue about the lane in which Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis hopes to run in his likely bid for the White House. 

Smack dab in the middle of the Trump lane.

“When Florida legislators kick off their 2023 legislative session Tuesday, expect a number of bills that will be red meat for the majority’s Republican base,” NBC’s Adam Edelman writes of Florida’s new legislative session, which kicks off with DeSantis’ State of the State address.

“Among them are major proposals to expand gun rights, further restrict diversity efforts at public universities and expand the ability to sue media outlets for defamation — all measures that shed light on the direction of a prospective presidential bid by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

More from Edelman: “With a GOP supermajority holding power across both chambers in Tallahassee, DeSantis will face little meaningful resistance in shaping the state’s politics as he sees fit, politics watchers in the state said, as he continues to build out a likely presidential campaign.”

Already, DeSantis has signed legislation into law stripping Disney of its self-governing status in the state — after the entertainment giant criticized Florida’s effort to restrict the teaching of sexuality and gender ideology to elementary students.

Bottom line: The Florida governor is trying to sell Republicans on his brand of governance — hitting back on liberals and opponents, but without the drama of Donald Trump’s years in the White House.

But there is a downside to DeSantis trying to run in the Trump lane and attract many of the same voters, albeit with a different style.

It leaves an opening for someone to run in a non-Trump lane.

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 44,000

That’s the number of hours of security footage of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy provided to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who used the footage Monday evening to falsely characterize the attack as largely peaceful

Carlson claimed that “taken as a whole, the video does not support the claim that Jan. 6 was an insurrection. In fact, it demolishes that claim.” 

As NBC News’ Sahil Kapur writes: “Video that Carlson didn’t air shows police and rioters engaged in hours of violent combat. Nearly 1,000 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol attack. About 140 officers were assaulted that day, and about 326 people have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees, including 106 assaults that happened with deadly or dangerous weapons. About 60 people pleaded guilty to assaulting law enforcement. Two pipe bombs were also planted nearby but were not detonated.”

And here’s what McCarthy said on the House floor one week after the Jan. 6 attack: “Let me be clear: Last week’s violent attack on the Capitol was undemocratic, un-American and criminal. Violence is never a legitimate form of protest. Freedom of speech and assembly under the constitution is rooted in non-violence. Yet the violent mob that descended upon this body was neither peaceful nor democratic. It acted to disrupt Congress’s constitutional responsibility.”

Other numbers to know:

25: The number of extra agents the U.S. sent to the Canadian border to address an influx of migrants crossing there.

4: The number of U.S. citizens kidnapped at gunpoint in Mexico on Friday, authorities said.

23: The number of people charged with domestic terrorism after a group of protesters attacked a police training center under construction outside Atlanta. 

$1.2 million: The amount that Nevada’s gaming industry donated to state legislators in the 2022 campaign cycle, up from 2020, but down from pre-pandemic cycles, according to the Nevada Independent.

2: The number of Jan. 6 defendants who have gone missing after tampering with their ankle monitors. 

Eyes on 2024: Keeping tabs on Joe Biden

President Joe Biden hasn’t yet announced if he’s running for re-election, but his schedule this week will preview some of his messaging and policy priorities ahead of a potential campaign. 

On Monday, Biden addressed the International Association of Fire Fighters Legislative Conference, telling the group, “I promise you. I promise. You have my back and I’ll have yours,” per NBC News’ Molly Roecker. Also on Monday, news broke that the Biden administration is considering restarting a controversial family detention policy for undocumented migrants. 

On Tuesday, the White House put out a plan to increase a Medicare trust fund’s solvency by raising taxes on the wealthy — a preview of his budget proposal, which he will unveil in Philadelphia on Thursday. The decision to unveil his budget in a battleground state is a departure from the traditional announcement at the White House, per the Associated Press. 

And next week Biden is expected to head to California for a fundraising swing, per Politico. 

One state he isn’t traveling to — yet — is Ohio, where East Palestine residents are grappling with a recent train derailment. NBC News’ Peter Nicholas, Kristen Welker and Monica Alba report that even though Biden has said he would go to East Palestine, there is currently no trip in the works. 

In other campaign news: 

Never Trumpers in despair: While CPAC grabbed most of the headlines this weekend, a group of anti-Trump Republicans also gathered together, but they couldn’t agree on the best path forward, per Politico. 

Thinking about it: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.., a vaccine opponent, told News 9 in New Hampshire that he’s considering running for president as a Democrat.  

So is he: State Sen. Doug Mastriano, last year’s Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee, is considering a bid for Senate, he told Politico. Last year, he lost his 2022 gubernatorial race by about 15 points as he embraced lies about the 2020 election.

Off to the races: Commonwealth PAC, an outside group boosting Republican Kelly Craft in the Kentucky governor’s race, launched a TV ad against GOP Attorney General Daniel Cameron, calling him a “soft, establishment Teddy bear.” The group has reserved $929,000 in airtime from March 6-19, per AdImpact. Cameron told the Louisville Courier Journal facing early attacks “shows the strength of our lead.”

New York state of mind: Politico reports on how New York’s Republican members of Congress have sought to distance themselves from their embattled colleague, Rep. George Santos. 

Debatable: The conservative and progressive candidates in Wisconsin’s closely watched Supreme Court race will face off in a debate on March 21, per the Associated Press. 

Boy meets Congress: Ben Savage, the actor of “Boy Meets World” fame, officially announced he is running for Congress to fill the seat being vacated by California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff’s Senate bid. 

States break up with ERIC: A handful of states with Republican leaders (Florida, Missouri and West Virginia) are leaving the multi-state voter registration data partnership, called ERIC, amid a pressure campaign from the right. 

Pay to play?: Politico reports on allegations that a consultant with ties to CPAC asked Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign to pay more than $100,000 if he wanted to get onto the conference’s presidential straw poll.  

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

The White House is giving messaging and legal advice to pro-abortion rights activists at the state level ahead of the 2024 campaign election cycle, Reuters reports.

The chief of staff to Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., released the first photos on Monday of the senator since he checked himself into Walter Reed for help with clinical depression, the Washington Post reports.

The chair of Washington, D.C.’s city council asked the Senate to withdraw changes to Washington’s crime laws in a letter on Monday, but the Senate still plans to vote on a House measure to overturn the local crime law.