Journalists express befuddlement over Ron DeSantis’ attack strategy

tiger bay four shot
Political journalists discuss partisan politics entrenching again in Florida.

Four leading Florida political journalists expressed befuddlement Thursday when asked what they thought about Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ aggressively defensive tone as he unveiled and promoted his coronavirus crisis strategies in the past couple of weeks.

“I can’t wrap my head around the logic of it,” said Orlando Sentinel reporter Jason Garcia. “And I’m sort of curious to get the [thoughts of] folks that are covering this stuff on a more daily basis… The strategy here seems to be to create this narrative that, ‘It was never a big deal in the first place,’ rather than, ‘I did a really good job responding to it.'”

Three journalists who perhaps covered coronavirus politics more on a daily basis than Garcia, Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch, News Service of Florida reporter Ana Ceballos, and POLITICO Florida reporter Matt Dixon appeared just as perplexed.

“I’m wondering what the logic is,” Ceballos said.

The four made up a virtual panel Thursday, via Zoom, to present the monthly program for the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, “Florida’s Policy and Political Landscape in 2020,” a discussion attended online by more than 100 members.

The quartet quarreled some over other statewide political questions, such as whether and when the Florida Legislature might return for a special session, and how draconian DeSantis might have to get with budget cuts to balance out revenue losses because of the coronavirus crisis.

They agreed that the current bickering between DeSantis and  Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the Florida Cabinet’s only Democrat, are indicative of the state’s future election battles. They also agreed that, while it appeared as if partisan politics had eased in Tallahassee for the first 15 or so months of DeSantis’ administration, it’s back in fashion now.

And while offering some hope for the prospects for Florida’s beaches, they all expressed somber pessimism for Florida’s broader tourism industry, and particularly for theme parks and cruise ships.

“It breaks my heart,” Schorsch said.

“Frosty coconut drinks are the things that make this economy go, and right now they’re not flowing, and they’re probably not going to be for a very long time,” Dixon said.

DeSantis had spent the first 25 or so minutes of his April 30 speech on reopening Florida’s economy focusing on how wrong the media and others had been in forecasts of the coronavirus crisis, at least in dealing with the potential speed and scope of the epidemic, hospitalizations, deaths, and equipment shortages.

“Most of the forecasts, as has been noted by others, were based on the state doing nothing. So the state, thankfully, has taken some steps to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and beat a lot of those forecasts,” Dixon observed. “But it turns into a kind of low-hanging fruit narrative for the governor to jump on to say, ‘media organizations reported on these early forecasts. They were wrong. So therefore they were raising a false red flag.'”

He suggested that it may have been a political strategy, for DeSantis to move away from centrist politics while everyone else returns to strong partisan positions in Florida.

Ceballos noted that DeSantis did not limit airing his media grievances to just one speech, even though they drew considerable criticism and diverted some attention away from the aspects of his big Phase One plan.

“It’s obviously planned. It’s not just one time that he’s done it,” she said.

Schorsch called the move unfortunate, saying it may have cost DeSantis the chance to ride high in polls.

“His approval rating was in the 60s, even high 60s, going into this session. Now he’s at like 51%… he’s no longer in that sweet spot that Jeb [Bush] was in for a while, that Charlie [Crist] was in at the beginning of his tenure,’ Schorsch said.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]

One comment

  • Margaret Blustine

    May 7, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    Obvious still over 500 new cases.see saw 1000 800 700 1000 1000 800 700 1000 560 700 1000 800 550 etc fla definitely not low new cases enough to phase 1. Is still not conseductive declining numbers.unstable plateau at too high number to loosen more phase 1.south florida still rising way too dangerous as small percent of fla tested yet.or antibodies yet take too long.500 plus still too high new cases 14 day cdc and trump guidelines said not safe to slow virus until 14 declining cases trump changed to herd immunity focus.isn’t safe. 325 million in new nature of his focus is reopen as he obvious trump conned de santis into new trump focus plan Hitler mentality open states like fla Texas etc with still high new dally cases let virus now loosened is even more released by many thousands as right now. Will spread by 3 weeks so rapid fast there will be millions across nation sick dying.too sick in ongoing wave 1 with no let up thru next year doomed to crash economy by August for years now. Strict lockdown works.few thousand moron protesterst de santis trump using as excuse phase 1. No flattening at low cases plateau ed at high 500 to 800 etc with first loose late more loosen phase 1 will be catrosphic in fla by June July and all businesses crash faster and faster as virus now un leashed on trumps herd immunity experiment.saying double daily deaths by June why?? Supposed be safe fla other states open.why is because trump knows will be not double daily deaths but 100x 100x as trump buys time saying expect highrr.why??? Obvious experiment using all states many way too early let virus go rampart as now started maybe enuf workers left alive.that’s only obvious answer to insane plan.too many 325 million with too many spreading unknown carriers and infected to win against such virus wildfire spread.treasure coast weeks sevl counties increasing daily steady upward. Now de santis deflected by trump testg etc useless words doesn’t get it fla is starting mass economic destruction by June end.out of control too late as he talks abt mobile truck.he’s totally missing true picture trump sacrificing him to start Hitler mentality herd immunity experiment doomed to lose economy to virus fast. noe carriers and unknown americans phase 1 are traveling countries successful infected horribly while all their efforts ruined by trump new plan with nature of it on new focus. Yes.kill kill sicken til no economy america with daily totals cases and deaths even known yet is more than ALL other countries combined in world.they continued ally up track never once lower.because trump won’t didn’t care enough to protect America like other countries did for their people.people americans must get news of this atrocity by reporters now.trump is lazy doesn’t want bother help but just wrongly thinks I will go tweet nonsense every night again while task force reopens and unleashes virus totally now til enough die workers be left he will get won’t happen.his now started murderous plan will fail.workers sicken die wave 1 without let up thru 2021 now. Reporters must warn america. People want go out.they did other leaders enforced strict lockdown and saved their economy and people.trump wrong deliberately.lazy lying.some morons go out sure but polls show stronly American voters say no.too loose restrictions now phase 1 disaster starting nationwide.then planet wide because trump won’t face reality.his ego power trip new reopen plan both parties see what he’s doing,using fake model deaths will double when real experts say know will be millions millions in America continuing wave 1 out of control economy dead soon totally.Tyson Smithfield plants so many sick workg age closed all plants in 3 week period start to closes.all businesses will crash faster and faster now.people majority do not want reopen america.trump lies is minority.he lies to con fla sevl states.why would a virus spread slow ever if he reopens America with many still on rise new cases??of course he knows it wont.he’s gaMalinga against a fast contagious virus with small per cent tested americans that his herd immunity will can’t possibly as experts have stated now publicily.trump like Hitler wants virus to spread so set up 3 phases in a totally out of control numbers ever increasing.he must be stopped by de santis and all governors now as obvious his evil plan.poor de sanoise trump deflects abt tests etc when fla clearly 21st soon to total it’s economy for yrs.only possible economy is strict lockdown usa and wimp trump ignore and governors enforce otherwise a catastrophice national destruction fast. No model exists that works on 325 million people exposed deliberately now to deadly exposure now opened.shortsighted restaurants can’t stop virus huge destruction their busin essence now fast,reality is spreads by talking.too. no MasKS evil use as excuse few thousands yelling when 325 million 83 per cent americans say don’t open. Is NOT safe.from beginning too loose too little.governors don’t listen moronsyelling.majority know need strict lOaktown now be too late pressure will destroy business fast.because of such low per cent americans tested and now many states reopen bad numbers still these millions will travel international fast.United nations must stop trumps mass exposure virus unleashing now as it will affect infect destroy other countries worldwide and potentially could kill the planet fast.his experiment on Americans and the world is insane and catatrosphic just like crazy notions that come out of his mouth from an unbalanced mentally ill sociopath.people in govt especially governors must now stop him and stop deferring to an insane bumbling irrational man who never sounded or acted like he had a brain or like a president.stop deferring to ego driven bully con man.both party all governors need face trup reality stop believing fantasy that cannot happen but stop this reopen now as exposure to 325 million people in such a badly controlled nation is anot end to American economy fast.pls print the reality of results of unleashing exposure to run rampant on 325 million people.impossible to work.too many people too fast virus’s nice to picture just double daily deaths to 3000 but reality will be 200000 daily over million dally til America totalled by august.reputable medical best in world and america models show thatoutcome.americans must learn this plan trump inflicts now and kno strict lockdown only proven slowed stopped.otherwise will be death of lives and economic collapse fast.failed in small other country but nowe America doing it.with huge cases deaths to no one left to work as surge after weekly surge all across America started now,let people know.weak wondering in press whato bewildering.headline what trump only 1 result.destruction jobs economy lives in a nation so populated.and will happen fast out of santis doesn’t get being sacrificed for fla unleash destruction worse than ima Gina blessed by trump insanity who will never win election now anyway.won’t be 1.American govt economy people all destroyed by November as virus wins against 1 man’s insane new plan the math.

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