Gov. Ron DeSantis ran much of his once-improbable campaign for Governor from Fox News green rooms, taking a different tack from Adam Putnam, his GOP primary opponent.
Whereas Putnam took an aggressively local approach to demonstrate he knew Florida best, DeSantis’ strategy involved, to no small part, winning through unobstructed messaging in the conservative national press, as a rule more sympathetic to his political agenda than legacy media.
As the Governor navigates the coda of the COVID-19 health crisis, clean messaging is key. That’s harder to achieve given that media, including and especially television, are drilling down into the mechanics of state government in a way unimaginable before the shutdown-driven economic collapse.
Considering his fractious relationship with much of the print and television media in state, the Governor has reverted to a familiar strategy for the COVID-19 campaign.
Regarding the matter of Rebekah Jones, dispatched recently from the state’s COVID-19 data effort, DeSantis let state media take the bait, before a dossier of information about the jilted Jones appeared, in article form, on the conservative Capitolist website, where the administration’s argument got a sympathetic hearing.
DeSantis found another friendly voice in National Review, where author Rich Lowry posed the provocative question: “Where does Ron DeSantis go to get his apology?”
“For his part, the Governor said ‘I view it more as a badge of honor that I was doing a good job and that they viewed me as a target, because if I wasn’t, they [journalists] probably would just ignore me,'” Lowry wrote.
In what could be a crowded slate of GOP Presidential hopefuls in Florida for the 2024 election, a writeup like Lowry’s is golden, vouchsafing the Governor as an unvarnished avatar of good governance, and a slayer of the liberal media while he’s at it.
Much of what he said has been workshopped for days, if not weeks, at press conferences in Tallahassee and throughout the state. Reporters are able to recite the talking points about reopening the beaches in Jacksonville as well as the Governor at this point.
One key difference: Whereas the press conference format sees a worked-up DeSantis heel on various reporters until staffers cut off their attempts at follow-up questions, the interview with Lowry avoided those rhetorical flourishes, allowing for a more even-keeled presentation.
While the Governor, like virtually every other Governor in the country who holds press briefings on COVID-19 response, routinely leads off with informational briefings, the stories that resonate with viewers or readers often are the ones borne of conflict. With copious live quotes from any given event, those contretemps become the story.
That’s a double-edged sword, as it dulls the informational effort, but allows for the political effort to shine.
DeSantis, as opposed to Sen. Rick Scott and his namechecking of officials from New York and other states seeking so-called “bailouts,” has alluded to the issues with other Governors and their coverage, but has not mentioned them.
He resisted the urge to mention New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo by name. However, in what was a carefully-assembled narrative setting piece, someone else (a “Florida health official”) did.
“I don’t want to cast aspersions on others, but it is incredible to me, it’s shocking that Governor Cuomo [and others] are able to kind of just avoid real questions about their policies early on to actually send individuals into the nursing home, which is completely counter to the real data.”