In the wake of record COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state, our friend, Florida Politics Founder and Editor Peter Schorsch wisely commissioned a poll to test the views on masks in schools as well as the Governor’s horse race, via St Pete Polls.
The results indciate a dead heat between US Rep. Charlie Crist (D) and Governor Ron DeSantis (R) (Crist leads by 1.5% which is right at the Margin of Error for the poll) while the Governor’s lead over Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) is now under four points.
The full poll can be viewed below.
Additionally, per the survey, Floridians favor mask wearing in schools by a 2-1 margin and DeSantis approval rating is now under 45%.
No question that DeSantis, who was until last month cruising to a likely easy reelection victory is now in a dogfight because of his indifferent handling of COVID-19.
But why exactly is DeSantis struggling?
Florida has recorded per our math close to 22% of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States over the past two weeks, yet only has 6.5% of the nation’s population. But we’ve had COVID surges before and DeSantis hasn’t seen his approval rating collapse quite like this, so why now?
It has become abundantly clear over the last week that enough Floridians who sit in the middle are growing increasingly uncomfortable with the Governor’s handling of the pandemic. However, It’s not just the rising Covid numbers and increased hospitalizations that are creating the problems for DeSantis.
An underlying issue is the visible lack of empathy the Governor demonstrates regarding any discussion of COVID-19 and the angry bitterness he regularly displays when pressed on it. DeSantis hostility toward the media and health professionals has been apparent for over a year but has really kicked into overdrive in the past two weeks.
The increasingly belligerent tone DeSantis is employing indicates the Governor who a month ago appeared in pole position to be sworn as President on January 20, 2025 now has to sweat his own reelection, potentially facing the indignity of being the first GOP Gubernatorial nominee to lose in almost 30 years.
As we’ve discussed regularly, DeSantis practices COVID denialism but when he does concede we have a pandemic brewing, It’s always someone else’s fault – Dr. Fauci, illegal immigrants, President Biden, the media, “liberal” bloggers, etc, etc. That blame game may work well with low-dollar, GOP donors outside Florida, which has become the Governor’s fundraising base, but is hurting him with swing voters.
A realization is beginning to percolate that while COVID-19 has hit this entire nation and much of the world with a relentless vigor, Florida’s Covid disaster has been more influenced by DeSantis lack of accountability, empathy and use of proper mitigation than by elected leaders anywhere else in the country. DeSantis’ approach may have helped the tourism industry and small business short-term, but long-term Florida’s reputation will suffer and potentially drive larger businesses away from the state.
Place all of these elements in the mixer and you suddenly have a very competitive Governor’s Race brewing for 2022.