How Ron DeSantis won the pandemic

But after 12 months in which he was pilloried as a reckless executive driven more by ideology than science, dogged by images of crowded beaches and bars and derided as “DuhSantis,” “DeathSantis” and “DeSatan,” Florida has fared no worse, and in some ways better, than many other states — including its big-state peers.

The most controversial policies DeSantis enacted — locking down later and opening up earlier, keeping nursing homes closed to visitation while insisting schools needed to be open to students, resisting intense pressure to issue a mask mandate — have ended up being, on balance, short of or even the opposite of ruinous.

Prognosticators’ grimmest predictions never came true — or haven’t yet — and DeSantis, for now, is more politically ascendant than any governor in the country. In stark contrast to his most conspicuous counterparts — California’s Gavin Newsom, who’s facing a recall, and New York’s Andrew Cuomo, who’s confronting political extinction — the Yale-and Harvard-educated DeSantis’ approval ratings are up from last year’s low 40s and flirting with the mid-50s.

And in spite of some traits that typically would constitute political kryptonite — he’s as awkward as he is ambitious — there’s mounting (albeit ultra-early) polling that suggests DeSantis might be (after Donald Trump) the favorite to be Republicans’ nominee for president in 2024.