This message is right in his political wheelhouse in that it pits him against the public-health bureaucracy. Every 2024 GOP presidential contender is looking for ways to build their populist credibility and sparring with the feds’ science nerds on pandemic guidance is a good one. DeSantis is savvy enough to have recognized two golden opportunities in the news lately. His point in the clip below that the Johnson & Johnson pause is destined to backfire by increasing vaccine hesitancy is one I agree with, and he’s right that it’s been borne out by early polling. Instead of a pause, the FDA could have issued an advisory about the clots while stressing that they believe the phenomenon is extremely rare and allowing people who want to get their J&J dose anyway to proceed.
His point that the Faucis and Walenskys are being overcautious in their guidance to vaccinated people has also been made ad nauseam on this site and elsewhere. Whether the J&J pause is truly justified is debatable, but whether it’s foolish to urge people who’ve gotten their shots to stay away from restaurants really isn’t, not given the minuscule risk of infection involved. He’s on solid ground in both of his arguments, especially the latter.
Even so, some Democrats are losing their minds on social media this afternoon over this brief, perfectly sensible bit of vaccine salesmanship during today’s presser.
"If you get a vaccine … you're immune. So act immune."
— Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) on why two masks aren't necessary after vaccination pic.twitter.com/GwxE6i5tkD
— The Recount (@therecount) April 16, 2021
The vaccine is the path back to normalcy, certainly enough that vaccinated people should feel safe wearing one mask instead of two. But Democrats have two cardinal rules on pandemic safety: (1) Never discourage precautions lest you convince the public to let down its guard and (2) a minuscule risk of infection and illness is still a meaningful risk. It’s why they were angry at Ted Cruz for going maskless yesterday and why they’re angry at DeSantis today, even though he’s vouching for the vaccines’ efficacy here before a constituency that really needs to hear that message. (DeSantis is aware of it too, alluding to the fact that demand will soon slacken as we hit the “vaccine wall.”) As a Twitter pal said, somehow he’s managed to own the libs simply by stressing that … the vaccines work.
The good news, that he did a nice, Republican-pleasing job with his COVID messaging in the clip below. The less good news is that Politico dropped this headline on him this morning:
I wrote a few days ago that flattering coverage of DeSantis is a double-edged sword for him. It builds his national profile, sure, but it also risks tweaking Trump’s delicate ego by sending the message that there’s a new sheriff in town for Republican voters. Headlines that directly compare DeSantis favorably to Trump are especially perilous, as you-know-who isn’t going to sit by and just let himself be usurped. There’s nothing DeSantis himself can do about any of this except be effusively complimentary of Trump when asked about him and make sure his political team says and does nothing that might imply that the pecking order among Republican politicians has changed. But it is changing a bit. Gradually. Watch below.