TALLAHASSEE – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis resurrects a Trumpian style that served him on the campaign but has been dormant since he took office.
Encouraged by a flattening of Florida coronavirus cases after weeks of national ridiculousness, the Republican taps his inner trump card after serving his swinging state as a friendlier, gentler leader with a weakness for teachers and the environment.
In his first 16 months as governor, he won a troubled truce with Democrats and his approval ratings rose. But the political pressure from the coronavirus pandemic has sparked the DeSantis campaign, a defensive partisan with a Trumpian bone who has to fight with his supposed enemies, including Democrats and the media.
This week, DeSantis has dedicated its coronavirus briefings to complaints about unfair treatment and, after a long absence, has returned to Fox News’s friendly radio waves to attack the “Acela” media.
For weeks, Florida was faced with threatening predictions that its pandemic response – or lack thereof – would lead to high infection and death rates and overwhelm the health care system.
Public health experts continue to advise caution, but the reality of the coronavirus in Florida has not yet met urgent expectations.
“These predictions were made over and over and they were wrong,” DeSantis told reporters on Tuesday in a comprehensive, sometimes irritable defense of his policies. “What we did worked.”
During this 20-minute appearance, DeSantis clashed with members of the press in a manner reminiscent of its 2018 campaign, a departure from its governance since taking office.
“Many of them [coverage] was politically motivated. Many of these outlets have clear goals, ”he said. “We will show that Florida does better than any projection.”
DeSantis also returned to Fox News this week, where he was once an important pillar. Since taking office, he has largely avoided the point of sale.
On Tuesday morning at Fox & Friends, DeSantis blew up the “Acela media”, a nod to the negative press he made by not closing the beaches or introducing an order to stay at home after most Governors had done this. Critics had portrayed DeSantis as slow and with ham hands.
A day later, DeSantis was back at Fox and promoting his success.
“We did a lot better than the experts promised, and I think we did it with an intelligent, data-driven approach,” DeSantis said to Sean Hannity on Wednesday night. “What we did worked.”
As DeSantis spoke to Hannity, visualizations created by his office flashed across the screen. One showed that the hospitalization rate in Florida is 10.3 per 100,000 people, far lower than in states like New York and New Jersey.
“Clearly there has been a sound shift, he is hitting the media and partisans who criticized him for not closing the state and opening beaches earlier,” said Nick Iarossi, lobbyist and fundraiser at DeSantis. “Florida has flattened the curve and is one of the best prepared states. His policy worked. “
“This is the DeSantis that voters have chosen. He says it as is and challenges the naysayers,” said Iarossi.
While some numbers show improvements, Florida is not out of the woods. On Thursday, the state had 1,300 new coronavirus cases, the largest increase since April 3. On Friday, the three-day average of new positive results was 979 compared to 746 on April 20.
When DeSantis aggressively promotes soothing health data, he turned away from the state’s failing unemployment system this week, which continues to garner negative, nationwide attention.
As of Friday, the state had reviewed fewer than 700,000 unemployment benefit applications. Just 22 percent of applicants Have received payments.
DeSantis rode to the governor’s mansion in 2018, shortly after President Donald Trump’s first confirmation. Partly as a by-product of Trump’s support, DeSantis adopted an aggressive campaign style that, even in the general election, aimed at conversation points and strategies to support supporters, rather than the moderates he needed to sway.
His tone changed abruptly when DeSantis took office in January 2019. His legislation focused on the environment and public education, a portfolio that made him popular even with Democrats who were surprised that a GOP governor gave lip service to their priorities.
The moderate government style received approval ratings in the 1960s and included a withdrawal from Fox News – at least temporarily.
“Getting him to Hannity last night was a great idea. He needs to talk to the base and his people about the director, ”said Brian Ballard, a well-known GOP lobbyist and Trump insider, on Thursday. “He was ridiculed and made fun of, and I think he feels like he really wants to get his message out now.”
Republican representative. Matt Gaetz, a longtime DeSantis ally, said the new approach is more of a snapshot than a reversal of the style of government that DeSantis has used since taking office.
“It is sensible for the governor to use national media to try to correct the record,” said Gaetz. “But in my conversations with the governor, I don’t think he misses being an integral part of Fox News, or the powdered makeup and lights.”
DeSantis gathered working groups of politicians and executives this week to develop recommendations for the reopening of the state economy. This decision is supported by the numbers he is now announcing. However, the meetings take place as public health experts call for caution.
Even when he pushed back the negative press, he risked drawing more.
“When people return to normal social interaction, or even gradually return, the risk transfer increases,” Christopher Murray, director of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, told CNN on Thursday. “The risk of these early openings being revived is very high.”
IHME initially predicted that Florida would have more than 400,000 positive cases, a forecast that has so far fallen short of expectations.
Florida had late Friday about 30,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,000 deaths, but has surpassed these early, terrible predictions.