Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is visiting Michigan on Thursday, marking his first appearance there this year, amid speculation that he could enter the race for the White House in 2024.
He is slated to speak at a Midland County GOP event and Christian Hillsdale College.
In central Michigan, Midland-area Republican State Rep. Bill G. Schuette said the county party wanted to hear more about DeSantis’ perspectives and proposals, in comparison to Michigan, which Schuette described as the “anti-Florida.”
The appearance is expected to draw more than 200 demonstrators to rally outside, according to protest organizers.
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While DeSantis has not yet officially announced his 2024 presidential candidacy, his name has been in the headlines as a top GOP rival to former President Trump for months.
The Florida governor already has some support from lawmakers.
Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie and Texas Rep. Chip Roy have endorsed DeSantis, and Republican Michigan House Speaker Bryan Posthumus flew to Florida at the end of last year to deliver a letter signed by 18 other state House Republicans encouraging a presidential bid.
“When he becomes an actual candidate, I will be doing another letter saying we endorse you for President of the United States of America,” Posthumus told The Associated Press.
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Michigan voters have largely rejected Republicans since Trump won the state seven years ago.
Democrats control the statewide offices of governor, attorney general and secretary of state, in addition to holding majorities in the Legislature.
With full control of the Statehouse for the first time in 40 years, Michigan Democrats have prioritized further protecting reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights that are being rolled back in Republican-led states across the nation.
While Florida has begun passing a six-week abortion ban backed by DeSantis, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation Wednesday repealing a 1931 abortion ban.
She called out Florida and other Republican-led states for taking steps to pass “un-American, anti-free and, frankly, sickening,” abortion laws.
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Posthumus said that what DeSantis has done in Florida is the “polar opposite” of what Whitmer has done in Michigan – possibly the fifth state to hold its Republican primary.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.