Death and DeSantis cloud the future of the Sunshine State
A dark cloud hangs over the Sunshine State. COVID-19, fueled by delta variant, is running rampant in Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is losing the race to stop the spread of the pandemic.
Last Friday, Aug. 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 23,903 cases of COVID-19 there, which was the highest daily count in the state since the start of the pandemic last year. Intensive care unit beds in hospitals are close to full capacity; more than 100 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19.
Surely, DeSantis is feeling the heat from this latest wave of coronavirus cases. His success or failure in fighting the delta variant this year will likely impact his reelection campaign next year and his presidential prospects in 2024.
His deadly indifference to the dangerous disease is a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of his constituents and his own political future. His strong anti-federal government stand could help him win the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. But even if he wins the Republican nod for president, his failure to take aggressive action to fight the pandemic in his own state might remind swing general election voters of former President Trump’s failure to control the pandemic, which killed hundreds of thousands of Americans during his tenure.
Republicans brand themselves as the “Pro-Life” Party. But, despite the fact that more than 600,000 Americans have already died because of COVID-19, many GOP leaders including DeSantis still resist common-sense attempts to combat the carnage.
In Florida, the death toll is already past 40,000, and DeSantis is focused on fighting the people who want to stop the suffering instead of using his powers as governor to fight the blight.
The governor’s crusade against federal government interference doesn’t stop him from interfering with local governments in Florida, many of which want to encourage vaccinations and require masks in public places.
DeSantis banned mandatory mask requirements and even threatened to dock school officials’ pay if they order teachers and children to wear masks. It seems like he is more concerned about his ability to appeal to hardcore vaccine resisters among Republican presidential primary voters than he does fulfill his responsibility to care for Floridians.
The governor stands in the front ranks of GOP hopefuls who hope to run against President Biden in 2024. Early surveys of Republicans show he would be a serious contender to win the GOP presidential nomination if Donald Trump doesn’t make the race. To appeal to the hard-core Trump voters, DeSantis appears to be replicating the former president’s passive approach of downplaying the pandemic.
But before he aims for the White House, he must maintain his hold on the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee. To win reelection he needs to beat two formidable Democrats who have decided to run against him next year. His challengers include the former governor and current Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) and the state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
Fried is the only current statewide elected Democratic official so she has enough name recognition to be a credible candidate. She has forcefully attacked the governor’s mild reaction to the wild spread of the delta variant.
Crist represents a bipartisan era that was once in vogue in Florida and national politics. He was elected governor back in 2006 as a Republican, declared himself an independent in 2010 and then joined the Democratic Party in 2012 before he became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The surge of COVID-19 in the state has cast a pall over the safety of Floridians and DeSantis’ prospects for reelection. Recent polling indicates the governor is in a close contest with both of his Democratic challengers.
The rise of the delta variant of COVID-19 is a death sentence for many Floridians and a political problem for DeSantis. It’s time for him to put people before politics.
Florida’s best hope for survival is the willingness of the governor to end his ideological crusade and start a determined battle against COVID-19.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon, airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. His Twitter handle is @BradBannon.
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