President Donald Trump’s fumbles and stumbles probably are why he trails Joe Biden in Florida by 2 points with a week to go. Still, the race appears close enough that it could take more than just Trump being Trump for him to lose the state.
If that happens, something “more” might be Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Suppose I had written that in May, well … I wouldn’t have. DeSantis still had wide support among Floridians, even as the pandemic was taking hold. A Florida Atlantic University poll gave him 51% approval, while 32% disapproved.
He enjoyed bipartisan support and was one of the most popular governors in the country.
The same outfit’s latest poll shows DeSantis 4 points underwater. That’s an astonishing political plummet for someone who, at the start of the year, was rumored for a presidential run in 2024.
Forget that, though – at least without some major fence-mending. If Trump loses Florida, it also would be a monumental rejection of the Governor that could carry over to 2022.
DeSantis is in the Governor’s mansion largely because of Trump’s support in the primary. Well, that and Democrat Andrew Gillum’s slipshod campaign.
He had a good start, too. His environmental efforts early in his term were well received. DeSantis helped push through a pardon for the Groveland Four, another widely praised move. He was a champion for teacher pay increases.
Alas, along came COVID-19, the Governor’s kryptonite.
He closed public schools to contain the spread, then later rebuked himself and called it a big mistake. He called those who opposed reopening schools “flat-earthers.”
As unemployment accelerated at a terrifying rate, the state’s claims system collapsed. DeSantis pointed fingers at former Gov. Rick Scott (not entirely unjustified) for a system designed to fail. Desperate Floridians knew they didn’t receive needed cash, and that tends to fall on the guy in charge.
DeSantis also resisted statewide calls for a mask mandate, despite medical expert advice that it’s key to controlling the virus. He closed bars and restaurants, then just as infection rates were beginning to increase again, he moved to full reopening.
Add it up, and that’s how you have a staggering 23-point approval reversal in six months. Where it once was believed DeSantis would carry his benefactor Trump over the finish line, now it might be the opposite.
A nationwide Axios/Ipsos poll released Tuesday showed voters gave the federal government a -20 rating on handling the pandemic. And in Florida, if enough people look at that sinking DeSantis rating and see Trump, that might be all it takes.