Why Donald Trump needs to worry about his odds with Florida voters

Since 1900, Florida voters have chosen the winning president 76 percent of the time. In 2020, any hope of Republicans retaining the White House rests on Florida. The state is the largest bellwether in national politics. Its 29 electoral votes have been the deciding factor in numerous elections. In 2016, Donald Trump won the state of Florida by just a little more than one point. In 2018, Ron DeSantis won governor by less than half of one point.

While Trump has a strong approval rating in Florida, the Real Clear Politics average has him losing the state to Joe Biden by the same less than half of one point that DeSantis beat Andrew Gillum. An atrociously irresponsible response to the coronavirus, by both the president and governor, could turn Florida blue for the first time since 2012, when Barack Obama won.

Before the coronavirus outbreak started, Trump repeatedly took credit for bolstering an economy that began its recovery under Obama. Supporters at campaign rallies and viewers tuning into his daily press briefings were told otherwise. They were told that Trump deserved all the credit for the resilience of our economy. They were told that he and he alone sent our economy into high gear and that nothing could ever stop it in its tracks.

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As soon as his administration became aware of the potential danger of the pandemic, they should have started to manage a response. But Trump and his team instead decided to politicize the outbreak by choosing to inflame culture wars and deny science, rather than prepare for a looming disaster. The number of deaths the country is experiencing could have been much lower if the White House simply acted sooner to address the coronavirus.

Instead of finding a way to get more tests, Trump went to Florida and held fundraisers and met with wealthy donors, all while the coronavirus spread across the country killing Americans. Instead of using his authority to take wise action like urging DeSantis to shut down the beaches and limit social gatherings in Florida, Trump went on television to ignorantly compare the coronavirus to the flu and mock doctors begging for additional supplies.

Republican governors and members of Congress sadly followed his lead. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida wore a gas mask on the House floor just days before one of his own constituents died from the coronavirus. Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney accused the media of “exaggerating” the danger of the coronavirus after he received multiple government briefings on the threat and was even tested twice himself.

But not to be outdone by his Republican friends in Washington, DeSantis removed his surgeon general from a cabinet meeting on the coronavirus after the doctor said that social distancing measures were necessary until a vaccine is ready. He then followed that up by declaring World Wrestling Entertainment, which is owned by the husband of a significant Republican donor to Florida, an “essential business” to allow it to continue operations.

Republicans in Florida may tolerate Trump and his rants, but they will not tolerate him putting their lives at risk in this state flush with a population vulnerable to the coronavirus. While governors around the country have seen double digit increases in their approval ratings, DeSantis has seen his approval rating fall several points. This should terrify the president. It shows that all the disinformation in the world cannot disguise the cruelty and incompetence exhibited by his uneven response to the coronavirus.

Republicans in Washington and the governor of Florida have made the ultimate gamble by playing Russian roulette with the lives of Americans. Trump is certainly not as concerned with protecting grandmothers and grandfathers as he is with protecting millionaires and billionaires. So this could be the watershed moment that finally exposes Trump and leads to his downfall. The only problem here is that he and DeSantis have to keep us alive for another six months. If we make it to this fall, Trump might be looking at the election that ultimately ends his time in the White House.

Michael Starr Hopkins is the founder of Northern Starr Strategies and the host of “The Starr Report” podcast. Follow his updates @TheOnlyHonest.