DeSantis to Biden: Damn right I'm standing in your way by opposing lockdowns

The 2024 presidential debates are going to be amazing.

Between Trump and Kamala Harris, I mean. I have no idea what DeSantis will be doing that fall after Trump elbows him out of the way in the primary.

Preparing for the vice-presidential debate, presumably.

Yesterday Jen Psaki threw this jab at him and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for barring local governments in their states from reinstating COVID restrictions like mask mandates, a concern that at least one Republican governor shares:

Psaki’s strategy was clear, singling out Texas and Florida to make sure the public knows that red states with their low-ish vaccination rates are driving the surge in cases nationally right now. (Although Florida is actually right at the national average, with 58 percent of residents having received at least one dose.) DeSantis’s strategy in responding was also clear, to signal defiance and double down on opposing restrictions that are unpopular with voters, especially Republican primary voters:

He’s right about Biden needing to pay less attention to Florida and more attention to the border, particularly if he’s worried about COVID:

But we should pay a little attention to Florida too:

Average daily deaths are just a third of what they were during the peak of the pandemic there, but they’ve also quadrupled since reaching a low of 15 per day a month ago. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Is that reality starting to pinch DeSantis a bit politically?

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist narrowly leads Gov. Ron DeSantis in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, according to the latest survey from St. Pete Polls.

The results come as DeSantis continues to face criticism for his COVID-19 response amid a major surge in cases and hospitalizations that is making Florida the epicenter of the pandemic.

While his lead is barely within the poll’s 1.6% margin of error, 45% of respondents indicated they’d vote for Crist, a Democrat who formerly served as Governor as a Republican, while just 44% said they’d cast a ballot for DeSantis. Another 11% are still undecided…

Crist’s boost is carried largely by independent voters. Of those, 46% prefer Crist while just 40% would vote for DeSantis. Crist also performs well among White voters, even if DeSantis still has that bloc cornered, with 40% indicating support for the Democrat compared to 51.5% for DeSantis. But Crist is carrying a giant chunk of the Black vote against DeSantis, with 68% support to the incumbent’s 16%.

I can’t bring myself to trust any poll out of Florida at this point since they’ve been underestimating Republicans in cycle after cycle for five years running. DeSantis is as prominent an example as Trump is: He was supposed to lose decisively to Andrew Gillum three years ago and ended up squeaking out a win in a Democrat-friendly national environment. The 2022 cycle will be friendly to Republicans and he’ll have Trump plus all sorts of kiss-ups in the party eyeing him as a future president who’ll be eager to campaign for him and earn some favors. I expect the GOP establishment will also go all-in on trying to help DeSantis to a resounding victory, not just for the sake of control in Florida but because the stronger he looks, the stronger the argument will be to MAGA fans to make him the party’s nominee in 2024 instead of you-know-who.

Plus, no one actually likes Charlie Crist. To believe that Crist can beat DeSantis, you need to believe that Dems are more willing to mobilize for him over the governor than they were to mobilize for Biden last fall against Trump. DeSantis is more likable than Trump and Crist is less likable than Biden; thus, if anything, we should expect DeSantis to improve on Trump’s margin of victory in the state.

Unless the COVID situation locally goes pear-shaped before then and swing voters turn on him, I mean. But realistically, how could it? The great majority of the population has immunity of one sort of another and Delta waves in India and the UK burned out quickly after a brief but stratospheric surge in infections. Florida’s Delta ordeal will likely be over in weeks. And meanwhile DeSantis will have earned brownie points from Republicans for refusing to yield to pressure from the White House to reinstate mandates.

In fact, if anything, Psaki and Biden did him a favor by singling him out and setting him up for the rebuke that followed. If I were them, I’d rather face Trump again than DeSantis.

Here’s Trump’s testing czar, Brett Giroir, politely criticizing DeSantis and Abbott around halfway through his interview with CNN this morning. Conservatives either believe in deference to local government or they don’t, he said, echoing Asa Hutchinson’s point. Why not let local officials and school boards set masking policy for their communities?

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