In a potential taste of things to come on the 2024 presidential campaign trail, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump spent Presidents Day 2023 highlighting their support for law enforcement and criticizing President Biden and Democratic Party policies that they charge have fueled a rise in crime the past couple of years.
“We’re grateful to be here to deliver a very important message, a message about safe communities, the rule of law and about standing by the people that wear the uniform and put themselves at risk to protect us,” the two-term conservative governor of Florida said on Monday night.
DeSantis was addressing an audience full of law enforcement officers at a Knights of Columbus hall in Elmhurst, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, a city that Republicans have made the poster child for lawlessness in recent years.
The stop near Chicago by DeSantis – who’s widely expected to launch a Republican White House run later this year – was his third of the day, following events with law enforcement officers in suburban Philadelphia and in New York City’s Staten Island (the only one of the city’s five boroughs to support then-President Trump) to showcase his support for police.
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The governor was also spotlighting what he called Florida’s “very successful” recruitment of police from across the country. “We want to let people know we’re here. We’ve got a lot of great benefits. You’ll be appreciated and you’ll have policies that work,” DeSantis said in an interview on “Fox and Friends” from Staten Island on Monday morning.
As DeSantis was making his way across the three Democratic-run cities, the former president unveiled a seven-point plan to “end crime and restore law and order.”
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“Joe Biden and the ‘Defund the Police’ Democrats have turned our once great cities into cesspools of bloodshed and crime. There’s never been anything like it,” Trump charged in a video announcing the policy proposal. “Here’s my plan to restore law and order in our cities and throughout our country.”
Among other things, Trump’s plan includes targeting what he calls “radical Marxist prosecutors who are abolishing cash bail, refusing to charge criminals and surrendering our cities to violent criminals.”
It’s not just Trump and DeSantis who are highlighting the issue.
As Fox News first reported Monday, former Vice President Mike Pence returns to the key early voting state of South Carolina next week to headline a law enforcement roundtable in Charleston.
Pence, who’s likely to launch a presidential campaign in the coming months, will meet with South Carolina sheriffs and police officers from various municipalities in order to “push back on the restored ‘Defund the Police’ movement that’s sweeping across the country,” an aide to the former vice president said.
And Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations who kicked off her 2024 GOP presidential campaign last week, has spotlighted her support for law enforcement as she’s campaigned in New Hampshire and Iowa – the two states that lead off the Republican nominating calendar.
Violent crime surged during Trump’s final year in the White House, and the nation was rocked by protests from coast to coast during the summer of 2020 over police brutality and systemic racism, which fueled the defund the police movement. And crime remains a potent issue with voters, especially Republicans. It’s also dominated electoral campaigns in recent years – from New York City in 2021 to former Rep. Lee Zeldin’s near upset of Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul in blue New York state last November, to Chicago, where the first round of mayoral voting ends on Feb. 28.
“Since the summer of 2020 and the riots that ensued, law and order, this feeling of a general sense of lawlessness in our nation, has certainly transcended Republican and conservative leaning audiences,” longtime Republican strategist Colin Reed said.
Reed, a veteran of multiple presidential and statewide campaigns, said that “the defund the police movement that was championed by some on the left has aged poorly over time” and he expects the issue of law and order to remain front and center among Republicans as the “2024 presidential primary unfolds.”