Could the Surge in Covid Cases Spell The End for DeSantis As It Did Trump?

Tom Stevenson
Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Covid situation in Florida right now is going from bad to worse. Cases are higher than at any point in the pandemic and hospitalizations are breaking records too.

Despite being a year and a half into the pandemic and with vaccines available, Florida is suffering. Some might say, one of the main reasons for this are the actions of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Throughout the pandemic, DeSantis has sought to downplay the effects of the virus. He's been steadfast in his determination to stop mask mandates from being implemented. While his support for the vaccination effort has been lukewarm at best.

You could sum up his strategy as burying his head in the sand and hoping the crisis blows over.

While things were looking better after the wave of infections in the new year, the arrival of the Delta variant has changed all that.

Now Florida is seeing a rise in Covid and DeSantis' popularity is falling. Recent polls show DeSantis' approval rating has dropped from a high of 55% in May to 44% in a poll that quizzed 3,952 Floridians who are likely to vote in gubernatorial elections next year.

This is alarming for DeSantis, who came to be known as 'Mini-Trump' for his abrasive style and policies which are similar to the former president. Now it seems DeSantis could suffer the same fate as Trump if he doesn't get a handle on the Covid situation in Florida.

With 21,169 cases and 122 deaths recorded on August 11, Florida is far from out of the woods. Matters are compounded when only 50% of people in the state are fully vaccinated. Such a small percentage of the population leaves many Floridians vulnerable to the more transmissible and deadly Delta variant.

Here is where DeSantis' political fate could mirror Trump's. The former president came undone with his response to Covid, which resulted in America having the worst death toll of any country. His denial of the severity of the virus and desire to reopen the economy exacerbated, rather than slowed the spread of Covid.

With hundreds of thousands of Americans dead by the time the Presidential election came around in November 2020, Trump was fighting an uphill battle to convince voters he was the man to tackle the pandemic and other issues in America.

DeSantis has tried to take the mantle from Trump and has lurched further to the right during the course of the year. His refusal to sanction mask mandates, flying to Texas to focus on the southern border rather than attend to matters in his own state, have caused alarm among moderate Floridians.

Now DeSantis has even managed to annoy those voters on the far-right, who form a key constituent of the Trump base as he declared his support for vaccination.

Here's what DeSantis had to say regards the vaccines at a Covid briefing on Wednesday:

"If you are vaccinated, fully vaccinated, the chances of you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID is effectively zero. If you look at the people being admitted to hospitals, over 95 percent of them are either not fully vaccinated or not vaccinated. And so these vaccines are saving lives."

There's still a long way to go until the elections in November 2022, but DeSantis could be squeezing his support at both ends and have to rely on a hardcore of support, much like Trump. Are Floridians willing to put up with more of DeSantis, especially if the Covid situation gets worse before it gets better?

It's hard to say, but his recent drop in polling approval and the vitriol of anti-vaxxers could be a lethal mix that makes his reelection closer than he might like. Should he just scrape his reelection, or even lose, that would almost certainly be the end of his aspirations to run for the White House in 2024.

The irony is DeSantis may fail at his goal by replicating Trump's rhetoric and policies. Considering it didn't work for Trump himself, it appears it might be a political miscalculation on DeSantis' part to think it would work for him instead.

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