Joe Henderson: Joe Biden attacked the wrong target in Ron DeSantis
Many believe Joe Biden is the best person to beat Donald Trump in November. Image via AP.

Biden coronavirus
Biden's ploy to tar President Trump with DeSantis' moves on COVID-19 could backfire. DeSantis remains very popular here.

In this polarized era, it’s usually not big news when one politician rips another. But it was different when Joe Biden singled out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his handling – or mishandling if you will – of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Floridians deserve science-based action from Governor Ron DeSantis,” Biden said in a statement aimed at DeSantis’ reluctance to mandate a stay-in-place order throughout the state.

Well, OK. That argument is fair game. Many critics say the Governor hasn’t been decisive in mandating tougher measures to deal with the virus.

However, it would be worse if DeSantis were prohibiting Florida mayors from taking that action in their cities. He has not, and several of them ordered shutdowns to various degrees.

Beyond that, however, two things stood out about Biden’s gambit.

First, welcome back to the campaign trail. We’ve missed you.

Until the last day or two, Biden has strangely been silent while President Donald Trump made some utterly ridiculous proclamations. No, Mr. President, the country will not be open for business by Easter. Stop saying it might be.

Setting that target date to get things running again while the COVID-19 butcher’s bill is rising daily is absurd. Biden should have been talking – no, SCREAMING – about that the minute Trump brought it up.

It was a chance in real-time to draw a clear distinction between himself and Trump on an issue of paramount importance. Biden lost that opportunity.

Beyond that, though, is the danger in going after DeSantis. That’s a risky business.

A Morning Consult poll earlier this year pegged DeSantis as the seventh-most popular Governor in the country. It gave him a 58 percent approval rating in Florida, although that may take a little hit over his handling of this crisis.

My guess is, though, it won’t fall by much.

DeSantis is the rare Republican who enjoys cross-over support from Democrats. He works with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. And while no one doubts his conservative chops, he hasn’t come across of a demagogue.

All that makes Biden’s move a little strange, although we know why he did that. Florida is a purple state in these big elections, and Biden probably figures if he can tar Trump with how his acolyte DeSantis performed in this crisis, it might help his cause.

Or, glass half empty, it could have the opposite effect.

None of that says Ron DeSantis is perfect. Yes, dammit, he stumbled out of the gate when COVID-19 was becoming a thing, and it was not a good look.

I still doubt it left Joe Biden the kind of opening he needed for that jab, and he ought to think twice before doing that again. The next time he has something to say about Florida, he would be wise to focus on the guy who has a place at Mar-a-Lago.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Marlene

    March 26, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    “ DeSantis is the rare Republican who enjoys cross-over support from Democrats.“

    Not this Democrat, and not any of the Democrats I know – and I know a lot of Dems.

  • DisplacedCTYankee

    March 29, 2020 at 7:50 am

    I agree with Marlene. Joe, your squishiness in this opinion piece was a little out of character. I LOATHE Gov. MAGA and I’m not alone. I was not exactly overjoyed with Gillum but I voted for him.

    Maybe DeSantis should start his own branding, calling for Make Our Florida Outstanding. MOFO for short.

  • Dan Lanske

    March 31, 2020 at 6:37 pm

    These two idiots, Marlene and Yankee, live in an echo chamber. Desantis obviously has cross party support. He has to in order to be polling around 60%

Comments are closed.


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