It’s true in both physics and politics: for every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has seen his approval rating plunge as COVID-19 cases soar.
A new poll shows that 44% of Florida voters approve of their outspoken governor. That’s down double digits from May, when he enjoyed a 55% approval rating.
Currently, 49% of Floridians disapprove of DeSantis’ job performance. He’s particularly unpopular among the young. Florida Politics explains:
The youngest set, those ages 18-29, posted 39% approval and 52% disapproval. The next youngest, those age 30-49, were not far off, with 40% approving and 51% disapproving.
DeSantis has been one of the nation’s leading public health contrarians. He’s threatened to cut state funding to school districts that require mask wearing. While that might play well in right-wing media, it’s unpopular among DeSantis’ constituents. The new poll found that 62% of Floridians want face masks in school.
DeSantis has also likened New York City – where proof of vaccination will soon be required to enter restaurants and other indoor settings – to a “bio-medical security state.”
DeSantis, widely considered a top GOP candidate for the 2024 presidential election, has frequently attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist. A political group associated with DeSantis is selling “Don’t Fauci My Florida” t-shirts and beer koozies.
Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the US Food and Drug Administration vaccines advisory committee, told CNN that DeSantis’ decision-making was “inexplicable” and that he was “a friend of the virus.”
DeSantis’ COVID policies are not only out of step with expert advice, they’ve also coincided with a resurgence of the virus in the Sunshine state. From CNN:
Florida, which now only reports Covid-19 cases on a weekly basis, racked up 110,000 new infections over the last week. It accounted for nearly 1 in 5 of the US tally on its own, a fact that helped draw the President’s ire. Its Covid-19 hospitalizations have reached a record high and deaths are rising again. The Florida Hospital Association said it expects 60% of hospitals in the state to face a “critical staffing shortage” in the next seven days.
The new poll also shows that DeSantis now trails Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democratic, in Florida’s 2022 gubernatorial race. Crist was the state’s governor from 2007 to 2011. Last week, he criticized DeSantis for neglecting his public health responsibilities, saying “We don’t have leadership.”
On Tuesday, President Biden expressed a similar sentiment when he called on Florida officials to do more. “Please help: if you aren’t going to help, please get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing,” the president said.
DeSantis has blamed the recent surge on a favorite conservative straw man: migrants crossing the border. “Why don’t you get this border secure and until you do that, I don’t want to hear a blip about Covid from you,” DeSantis said in response to President Biden’s criticism.
Crist bristled at DeSantis obstinance in the face of an increasingly dire COVID situation in Florida, saying “What’s he [DeSantis] doing about it? He’s going to Texas. He goes to the border. Texas. You’re the governor of Florida, you know,” Crist said. “He doesn’t understand. And you know he’s spending our tax dollars out there, giving our law enforcement to Texas while people are dying in Florida. Unbelievable.”