After 174 Years, a President is Finally Based Out of Florida

After more than seven decades of calling New York home, President Donald Trump has declared Florida as his state of residency–making him the first president to be based out of the Sunshine State.

There will be plenty of speculation on Trump’s decision from taxes to the president needing Florida in his column to win a second term. Still, with all the buzz, one point might be overlooked.

Sure, Florida is the ultimate swing state–but, since joining the Union as a state in 1845, no presidents, vice presidents or even candidates on a national ticket have called the Sunshine State home.

The president with the most ties to Florida is probably Andrew Jackson whose portrait hangs in the Old State Capitol in Tallahassee. One of the nation’s most decorated heroes from the War of 1812, Jackson led American forces that invaded Spanish Florida in a campaign against the Seminoles in 1817 and 1818. Jackson’s actions, which had the ambiguous blessing of President James Monroe, led to America purchasing Florida from Spain in 1819 after negotiations conducted by then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Jackson would serve as military governor of Florida in 1821 before running for the White House in 1824. While Jackson would lose to Adams, he would crush the incumbent in a rematch in 1828.

Jackson was not the only future president who led armies in Florida. “Old Rough and Ready” Zachary Taylor would prove one of the more successful American commanders in the Second Seminole War, serving in Florida in the late 1830s. A son of the Southern frontier, Taylor proved a good fit with Florida, unlike “Old Fuss and Feathers” Winfield Scott, the most prominent American general of his era. Scott might have taken Mexico City in the War with Mexico but he didn’t exactly shine during the Second Seminole War. Taylor won more impressive victories in Florida. Certainly, the more down-to-earth Taylor did better with voters than the pompous Scott. A grateful Florida would back Taylor in 1848 when he ran for the White House as a Whig, making him the first presidential candidate to carry the state. Taylor died after 16 months in the White House and the Whigs started splitting over slavery. Scott would pay the price, losing Florida and most other states when he ran as the Whig nominee in 1852 and got crushed by Democrat Franklin Pierce.

Other presidents also saw military action in Florida. Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders were stationed in Tampa before heading off to Cuba in 1898 and James Garfield, then an up-and-coming congressman in uniform, was penciled in to command Union forces in Florida in the Civil War before he was ordered elsewhere.

While Jackson may have been the president with the most links to Florida, other commanders in chief also had connections to the Sunshine State. In 1933, Joseph P. Kennedy would purchase beachfront property in Palm Beach — and his second son, John F. Kennedy, the nation’s 35th president, would return to the family home there to relax and hold important meetings. JFK was in Palm Beach when he mulled over who to name to his Cabinet.

President Richard Nixon would buy a home in Key Biscayne from retired U.S. Sen. George Smathers, D-Fla. in 1969 which became the Florida White House. Not too far from the home of his close friend Florida banker Bebe Rebozo, Nixon would visit the Florida White House more than 50 times during his presidency.

While he did not approve of his daughter’s marriage to Warren G. Harding, Ohio businessman Amos Kling let his son-in-law vacation in his winter home in Daytona Beach. Kling built the house in 1907 and the Hardings would leave Ohio to vacation there in the winters as Harding rose the political ladder until he was elected president in 1920.

Other presidents would head to Florida on vacation. Ulysses S. Grant would vacation in Florida, traveling on riverboats after his years in office. Trying to cope with Brights’ disease, Chester A. Arthur headed to Florida in 1883, only to worsen his condition which would lead to his death in 1886. Both Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft would vacation in White Springs in the northern part of the state. Herbert Hoover, an avid fisherman, would head to the Sunshine State to pursue his hobby in his long post-presidency. Before he contracted polio in 1921, Franklin Delano Roosevelt would sail off the Atlantic coast, keeping a boat docked in Jacksonville. FDR would also barely escape an assassination attempt in Miami in February 1933, less than a month before he took the oath of office.

Harry Truman loved heading to Florida, setting up the Little White House in Key West. Truman would spend half a year during his two terms in office at Key West, heading down to Florida during the late fall and late winter. Truman would keep returning to Key West during his years after the presidency.

Presidents also had familial connections to Florida. Jeb Bush, son of one president and brother of another, served two terms as governor of the Sunshine State. Hugh Rodham, Bill Clinton’s brother-in-law, ran against U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla. in 1994 and was utterly routed at the polls. Banker Rutherford Platt Hayes, son of Rutherford B. Hayes, lived in both Umatilla and Clearwater and was active with Republicans across Florida.

Of course, there have been several politicians from Florida who aimed for the presidency but the likes of Claude Kirk, Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio didn’t exactly take the political world by storm.

In the meantime, Florida can expect to see more of its newest resident in the months to come. Trump launched his reelection bid in Florida and has already stumped in the Sunshine State as he gears up for 2020. Florida will see more of Trump next month when he is scheduled to appear at a Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) event in Orlando.


Kevin Derby wrote this analysis. He can be reached at


Kevin Derby
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