Covid wars launches DeSantis in GOP ‘top tier’

With a Covid death toll cover occupies New York Government Andrew Cuomo and a pandemic-related recalls efforts haunting California Government Gavin Newsom, Republicans embrace DeSantis as a red state example pointing to rates Covid deaths, vaccinations and unemployment in the most populous blue states.

“Ron DeSantis has a moment with conservatives,” said Josh Holmes, a top adviser to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. “Part of this is liberals trying to throw this into the yin-and-yang comparison with Cuomo … It’s politics, and it’s partly stylistic how he handles the news media and his blue claims.”

Early in the pandemic, both Newsom and Cuomo won national praise for their handling of the pandemic, while DeSantis was praised for its more economy-focused and laissez-faire approach – a closely linked to Donald Trump’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. Now the Conservatives are enjoying the contrast and holding up DeSantis as an example of effective governance.

But it is the fight in DeSantis that has animated conservatives, Holmes said, pointing to a recent press conference held by DeSantis to announce a proposal to crack down on Big Tech, accusing the news media of having a double standard, to a reporter . point out that “you can whiz on my leg, but do not tell me it’s raining. ”

“A Republican says at a news conference it’s like a shot of adrenaline for the conservative grassroots,” Holmes said. “The reaction was ‘Wow!’ He actually said it! ”

DeSantis is still relatively unknown among the broad base of GOP voters, according to early nationwide primary polls from the 2024 Republican race shared privately with Politico. In a hypothetical race against a crowded field, DeSantis is in the middle of single digits, far behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Vice President Mike Pence, who received about a third of the primary vote right now.

In Florida, recent Republican polls show him with higher net worth ratings than Donald Trump – remarkable finds in a populous battlefield where the former president just won by the largest margin of any presidential candidate since 2004. These figures also suggest DeSantis is more popular than the state’s two senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both of whom also have presidential ambitions.

“He flies by instinct, not by instrument. He is a natural, ”said Ryan Tyson, a top Republican pollster whose recent poll for a private client, shared with POLITICO, showed that DeSantis edged Trump in popularity among Florida Republicans.

A loner with few close allies – and who lacks a recurring style in a retail politician – DeSantis does not have a pollster or paid political consultant.

For a GOP base that wants Republicans to fight the news media, confront liberal and defiant scientific experts, DeSantis is hitting its mark, according to one of the country’s greatest Republican pollsters, Tony Fabrizio, who worked for both Trump and DeSantis in 2020. and 2016, respectively.

“Any serious handicapper will have to place DeSantis at level 1 in 2024. And level 1 is not big,” he said. Fabrizio puts the governor in the same class as Pence and Cruz, though they are far better known at the moment.

But rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), A former governor who is considering running against DeSantis, said the governor should answer for hides Covid data to adjust with spin from Trump’s White House.

“The fact is, 30,000 of our other Florida people are dead, and that’s nothing to brag about,” Crist said.

Recently, DeSantis’ administration has done just that refused to release data on a new Covid tribe that is at the center of a travel constraint conflict with the White House.

In response to its critics, DeSantis has counter-accused them of raising the bar with a “conspiracy theorist“Who publishes false information about Florida’s death toll. He has struggled with journalists over mask-wearing and state vaccination effort. And he also notes that his opposition to closing beaches was not that predicted disaster critics, the forecasts for overwhelmed hospitals never happened all over the country, and schools have functioned without the dispersal of society (though a teachers’ association sued him to open schools) and he can boast that he was among the first governors to reserve vaccines for those over 65 years of age.

DeSantis is also quick to note that Florida’s death rate is 27th among all major blue states except California, where deaths are creeping faster in recent weeks, According to the CDC.

“What we showed in Florida is that you have to lead. I got a lot of blowback. Much of it was honestly BS, ”DeSantis told POLITICO after a recent event in Miami. “We led schools. We led to putting people back to work. We would not have had a Super Bowl [in Tampa] if it were not for me. ”

DeSantis strode to “the national media and all these people who are self-taught ‘experts’ … They all said Florida would be the worst. But Covid mortality is less than the national average per capita. Inhabitant. ”

“Our economy is better than the national average,” he said, referring to Florida’s unemployment rate, a booming real estate market and higher-than-expected tax revenues.

Asked whether the negative press coverage drove his popularity among Republicans because so many conservatives distrust the media, DeSantis answered with certainty.

“100 percent,” he replied with a knowing laugh. “100 percent.”

DeSantis criticized a photograph of him not wearing a mask while talking to someone in a skybox at the Tampa Stadium during the Super Bowl. “How the hell am I supposed to be able to drink a beer with a mask on? Come on, ”DeSantis joked to POLITICO. “I had to watch the Bucs win.”

DeSantis’ appeal was evident at a recent Republican demonstration in the Houston area, where mere mention of DeSanti’s name led to cheers while the crowd was largely silent at the mention of their own GOP governor, Greg Abbott. None of the governors were at the event.

“If they do not say Trump in 2024, they say DeSantis. And more and more people are saying DeSantis, ”said a Texas Republican official who did not want to be on record with a potential Abbott rival.

JoAnn Fleming, a conservative and CEO of the Grassroots America group in Texas, said Abbott’s policy was too harsh on “mom and pop stores, but left the Big Box stores open … rubbing the Texans the wrong way.”

As a result, she said, Republicans are turning more toward potential candidates like DeSantis and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

In Ohio, Senate candidate and former Treasurer Josh Mandel last week roasted DeSantis instead of his state’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, whose heavier hand, which manages Covid, has soured many Republicans on him. And in New York, as the scandal engulfs Cuomo, veteran GOP strategist Jessica Proud said it has also elevated DeSantis further.

“Republicans have seen how he has handled himself with the media, and he has a way of pushing back that is effective and intelligent,” she said. “It’s not so much Trump’s audacity in terms of Twitter and personal attacks. But it is strong and offensive. ”

In the first-in-nation Iowa, GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann said he has noticed an increase in buzz over DeSantis – as has former South Carolina GOP chairman Matt Moore in his home state. Moore said while former Gov. Nikki Haley is still an early and clear favorite to win the first in the South Primary, but DeSantis’ rise is unmistakable.

“Republicans seem to want Trumpism with a sense of detail and an actual political agenda,” Moore said.

And they also want the economy more open, said Jim Brulte, a former GOP president and state senator in California.

“Disneyland is not open here. But Disney World is open in Florida. I went to Florida. I went to Disney and I did not get Covid, ”said Brulte.

“Every time the mainstream news media attacks someone on our side unfairly, you know he or she can be a threat,” Brulte said. “DeSantis did not scold people like the governor of New York did with his policy, but you would not have known that in the national media.”

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