As pandemic wanes, Florida’s DeSantis takes hold of the national scene | News, Sports, Jobs
TALLAHASSEE, Florida – As Florida Governor Ron DeSantis struggled to contain the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats braced themselves to pounce. The state’s economy was in tatters, infections and deaths were on the rise, and there were doubts about the Republican’s plan to pull Florida out of the crisis.
Now that the pandemic appears to be abating and DeSantis is heading towards his re-election campaign next year, he has emerged from political uncertainty as one of the most important Republican governors and one of the first favorites in the country. White House in 2024 among the acolytes of Donald Trump, if the former president no longer shows up.
As DeSantis’ national stature has grown, he has remained defiant in the face of continued attacks on his tough opposition to hide mandates and lockdowns.
“Stay in the line. Don’t back down,” he told a crowd at a fundraiser in Pittsburgh on May 20. “And in the state of Florida, with me as governor, I just started to fight.”
That fight will come soon, as he campaigns for a second term and pressure is put on Florida Democrats to regain a foothold in a state that has turned to Republicans for multiple election cycles. Unless a new formula is found, Democrats could find themselves shut out of state office for the first time since reconstruction.
“It’s not just a race – it’s two races in one, as Ron DeSantis tries to use a re-election victory as a slingshot and then be the favorite.” for the GOP nomination in 2024, said Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster in Miami. “If they manage to prevent him from being re-elected, they almost certainly eliminate any possibility of him running for president.”
DeSantis won three years ago against Democrat Andrew Gillum, and Democrats are wondering if they can field a candidate who can reclaim the governor’s mansion for the first time since 1994.
U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor who is now a Democrat, announced his gubernatorial campaign this month. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat currently in a statewide post, announced the June 1 date to publicly announce whether she would run.
Some Democrats had hoped that U.S. Representative Val Demings, who helped manage Trump’s first impeachment and was seen as President Joe Biden’s vice president, would join the race. Instead, she is considering a candidacy for the seat of the United States Senate now held by Republican Marco Rubio.
No matter who enters the Democratic contest, the overthrow of DeSantis will be “A big order,” said Ryan Tyson, a Republican pollster based in Tallahassee. “Democrats do not understand that the state of Florida is changing under their noses.”
Florida’s population continues to climb, but many of the state’s new residents are older and come from more Republican-friendly parts of the country. Prior to last November’s presidential election, Republicans had narrowed the registration gap with Democrats to about 117,000. On election day four years earlier, Democrats had a 327,000 voter registration lead. Since then, Republicans have continued to win – with a Democratic advantage of just over 100,000.
Both sides will attempt to nationalize the race, in part to gain support from major donors outside the state. For DeSantis, it is also about raising its national profile.
Of course, that will likely become a line of attack for Crist and Fried, who accuse DeSantis of being more interested in pursuing his political ambitions than addressing the concerns of Floridians.
“Just like our former president, he always takes the credit but never takes responsibility” Crist said when he announced his candidacy for governor. In a video hinting at his possible entry into the race, Fried called DeSantis a “Authoritarian dictator”.