Joe Henderson: Gov. DeSantis’ plummeting popularity could tip the election
Is DeSantis the new Donald Trump? Image via AP.

trump deSantis
If Donald Trump loses Florida, it would be a rejection of the Governor that could carry over to 2022.

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.

Not now.

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.

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.


  • James Robert Miles

    October 27, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    DeSatan, going down with the ship! Couldn’t happen to a more deserving SOB! Trump IS the covid virus and ANYBODY who kisses Trump’s butt will suffer dearly! Payback is a bitch!!

  • Bill In Palatka

    October 27, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    As always, Joe’s analysis is spot on. Nikki Fried will become Florida’s first female governor in 2022 because Desantis will carry a terrible record of utter subservience to a defeated ex-president who, by the time Nov. 2022 rolls around, is likely to be fighting off a slate of criminal charges in New York.

    Desantis also must contend with the inescapable political burden of truth, which is that he allowed Covid to run rampant, killing thousands along the way, while he prioritized marching orders from Trump over the safety and health of Floridians–especially the elderly.

    And if you’re not sure about that, just take a look at the current election. Trump will lose because of his handling of the virus, and little else. The same electoral destiny awaits Desantis because no GOP politician will be allowed by voters to circumvent the Covid issue, not now, and not in 2022.

    Desantis had a pal in the White House but he’ll enjoy no such luxury in a Biden/Harris administration that is anxious to support a member of the party faithful, Fried, for a near-certain run against Desantis. And Fried is youthful, pretty, humble, smart, and a woman who cares about her constituents. A total contrast to everything that is Desantis.

  • Sonja Fitch

    October 28, 2020 at 5:54 am

    Senior citizens and Panhandle conservatives are NOT buying the bs being delivered by Trump puppet Desantis or the bs from Gaetz ! Southwest Florida has a real Republican that has publicly disavowed any of the goptrump Death cult bs! Northeast Florida has had to live through the looting Lenny debacles with JEA and the School Board! Lenny has been broken! Sheriff Williams has failed to keep up with the Fing racist disaster of Rutherfords failures! We shall vote Democrat up and down ballot for the common good and to cleanup the halfass failures of Nazi Rick Scott!

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