By Bill Pan
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who will officially announce his 2024 presidential run on Twitter on May 24, is envisaging the establishment of a 7–2 conservative supermajority “that would last a quarter-century” on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I think if you look over the next two presidential terms, there is a good chance that you could be called upon to seek replacements for Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito,” DeSantis said in a speech at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention held in Orlando, Florida, on May 22.
Alito, who has a reputation as a consistent conservative voice on the high court, is 73. Thomas, who follows an even stricter and more literal interpretation of the Constitution and sometimes writes opinions that other conservative justices don’t join, is 74.
“The issue with that is, you can’t really do better than those two. They are the gold standard for jurisprudence, so you’ve got to make sure that we are appointing people who are going to be as close to that standard as possible,” DeSantis continued, adding that he doesn’t want to see Thomas being replaced with someone like Chief Justice John Roberts.
Roberts, 68, has become known as the court’s swing vote.
He tends to rule with the conservative majority but sides with the liberal minority from time to time. Notably, Roberts did not side with the conservative wing in the 2022 landmark decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing each state to make its own abortion laws.
“If you replace a Clarence Thomas with somebody like a Roberts or somebody like that, then you’re going to actually see the court move to the left, and you can’t do that,” DeSantis said.
The Republican governor moved on to talk about the possibility of having a two-term Republican president find a replacement for Roberts, and perhaps Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a 68-year-old Obama appointee.
“It is possible that in those eight years we would have the opportunity to fortify justices Alito and Thomas, as well as actually make improvements with those others, and if you were able to do that, you would have a 7–2 conservative majority on the Supreme Court that would last a quarter century, so this is big stuff,” he told a cheering and applauding audience.
Touting Florida Accomplishments
DeSantis also highlighted the role he played in filling the Florida Supreme Court with conservative justices, teasing that he would bring similar changes to the nation’s highest court if elected to the White House.
“We have age limits for justices,” DeSantis said. “The minute I got sworn into office, three of the four liberal justices were off the court, because of age. So I was able in my first month of office to replace three liberal justices with three conservative justices.”
The Florida Constitution was amended in 2018 to place an age cap for state Supreme Court justices, forcing them to retire at age 75. By contrast, U.S. Supreme Court justices serve lifetime appointments, just like all federal justices.
“I will have ended up doing seven appointments throughout my tenure,” the governor added. “Judicial activism in Florida is now officially dead.”
Earlier in May, DeSantis visited Illinois and the key caucus state of Iowa, where he called on Republicans to not “get distracted” and “reject the culture of losing that has infected our party.”
Recent polls have shown DeSantis is still trailing behind former President Donald Trump, who has enjoyed the advantage of declaring early—picking up dozens of endorsements, including from many Florida Republicans.
A Wall Street Journal poll released in April showed Trump winning 48 percent of the vote in a 12-contestant primary. DeSantis came in second with 24 percent among likely Republican primary voters.