Mayhem In Florida, As Trump And DeSantis Drag The Republican Party Down With Them

In their most recent polling, Change Research found that "preference for Democratic leadership on COVID-19 is clear when you see voters’ reactions to the way their governors are handling COVID-19. Republican Governors who have listened to the President on COVID-19 are underwater in the handling of the virus, while majorities approve of the way their governor is handling the outbreak in states governed by Democratic Governors." They were looking across a spectrum of half a dozen battleground states:

You will quickly notice that the two states with the most horrific COVID-collapses, Arizona (23,907 cases per million Arizonans) and Florida (21,901 cases per million Floridians), are the two with Republican governors-- Doug Ducey and Ron DeSantis, both arch-Trumpists-- and that their disapproval rankings are through the roof. The Change Research polling memo pointed out that "As the U.S. nears record hospitalizations, serious concerns about coronavirus reach 77% nationally (+4 over the past two weeks) and remain 71% in the battleground. Within the battleground, serious concerns increased a few points across the Rust Belt and decreased a few points across the Sunbelt, but serious concerns remain highest in Florida (76%)." They also make the point that the failures of GOP governance are threatening Trump's reelection and Republican election prospects down-ballot. They point to Senate races in North Carolina, Michigan and Arizona where Republicans are losing. But the now widely despised Gov. Ron DeSantis is not on the ballot this year and there are no state-wide races in Florida. Democrats running further down-ballot, however, are seeing tremendous energy building for their candidacies to flip red districts blue-- both in congressional and state legislative races.

Progressive Democrat, Adam Christensen, is running for the north-central Florida congressional district-- utterly ignored by the DCCC-- that Ted Yoho is abandoning. "Republicans," he told me yesterday, "are now spending money in places they’ve never had to worry about before. They are scared and we love to see it. They have also been forced to change their messaging. We are watching them eat their own, double down on their Trump support, and mindlessly attack members of the 'squad.' We are also watching them switch their marketing because they are losing support with women across the board, following the Ted Yoho attacks on AOC. Their typical style of politics is not working and they are flailing, trying to find anything that will stick."

This is an example of what passes for GOP campaign literature in Florida

Progressive Democrat, Katherine Norman, is taking on Republican Party chairman Joe Gruters for a pivotal state Senate seat in Sarasota and Charlotte counties. Although the Democratic Party is desperate to win back the state Senate, they are giving Gruters a free pass and ignoring Norman's inspiring grassroots. She forwarded an e-mail to me from Gruters yesterday that pointed out that "Trump’s path to victory this November runs right through Florida... but some polls show that he may be behind Joe Biden in the Sunshine State. On top of this, we’re $18,774 behind on our July fundraising goal with just 48 hours to go."

Norman, who offers a message of compassionate, transparent leadership with a focus on world-class healthcare and a scientific approach, told me that "more and more voters in traditionally red districts are reaching for competent leadership across the aisle. Republicans in Sarasota and Charlotte counties are revolting against Gruters, some leaning towards voting blue for the first time in their lives. As the mismanagement of Florida's coronavirus pandemic continues, we can expect to see increasingly positive polling for Biden in this state... I am deeply saddened for our six million Florida seniors who are locked in their homes, unable to hug or see their grandchildren, unable to fulfill the travel dreams of their retirement because of the complete mismanagement of coronavirus by Florida Republican leaders. Senator Gruters said that he expects the virus to get worse before it gets better. We should not have to accept this nonsense answer from our elected officials. Our citizens deserve leaders that respond to science and that have the basic decency to protect the most vulnerable in our population."

Joshua Hicks is running across the state from Katherine-- a Nassau and Duval House district-- held by gun-fanatic Trumpist Cord Byrd. "Voters are tired of politicians who place supporting one person over the many," he explained last night. "They are tired of people, like my NRA-backed opponent, who are more interested in supporting a twitter President, than their own constituents here at home. The more people I talk to-- Republicans, Independents, and Democrats-- the same message becomes clear: they want leaders in Tallahassee who will look out for them, their issues, and their needs. We don't need 'fake leaders' in Tallahassee who look out only for themselves and their egos. I'm working to turn Northeast Florida blue because we need leaders in the Florida Legislature who will stand up for and support the people, our values and our needs here in the district."

Headlines around Florida are looking more and more like this one from the Herald-Tribune yesterday-- DeSantis’ popularity plummets amid widely-panned coronavirus response-- where political editor Zac Anderson connected DeSantis' sinking poll numbers with how voters are judging his failures in responding to the pandemic crisis and, specifically, his ideologically-motivated and utterly boneheaded refusal to impose statewide public health mandates.

While the pandemic has boosted the reputations of many governors – both Ohio Republican Mike DeWine and Massachusetts Republican Charlie Baker have sky high approval ratings - DeSantis has been accused of standing by and doing little to halt the march of the virus in his state, allowing Florida to become a global hotspot.

As the virus has raged out of control, DeSantis has closed bars but taken few other steps to contain the virus. He repeatedly played down the explosion of new cases, at first attributing it to more testing and then arguing that the big increase in cases isn’t such a big deal because many of those infected are younger and less likely to get seriously ill.

Then, when hospitalizations and deaths also began to spike, he questioned the death numbers. When Florida began notching daily records for new deaths this week he dismissed it as a “lagging indicator” and said he is hopeful because hospitalizations and new cases appear to have stabilized, even as they remain at exceptionally high levels.

DeSantis has rejected a statewide mask mandate and refused to further rollback the reopening effort. His administration is even talking about getting bars and breweries open again, while continuing to urge schools to reopen.

...DeSantis was known as an ardent conservative before he ran for governor, and his coronavirus response mirrors the views of many GOP base voters and President Donald Trump, his political benefactor.

During his time in Congress, DeSantis was a member of the hard right Freedom Caucus who attracted attention for staunchly defending Trump on television.

Trump later endorsed DeSantis in the GOP primary for governor, which sealed his victory. He owes his political fortunes to Trump and has followed the president’s coronavirus playbook of elevating economic concerns above health risks.

But that strategy is collapsing around him, just like it has for Trump, who reversed course and began wearing a mask after deriding them and pulled the plug on holding the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, another sign that Florida’s coronavirus outbreak has reached alarming levels.

Besieged by critics who say he has taken a reckless approach to the virus that is costing lives, DeSantis has shifted his tone and has been less cavalier and more realistic about the dire situation the state is in. He hired a new communications director, which could be a sign of a new approach.

He may be tired of headlines like this one on CNN’s website: “Florida’s governor just can’t seem to get it right on coronavirus.”

“If there’s a face of the botched handling of coronavirus in the United States-- other than President Donald Trump, of course-- it’s that of Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis,” wrote CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza.

...After ending Florida’s lockdown in May and enjoying relatively low numbers of new cases in May and early June, DeSantis took a victory lap, saying the state’s delayed lockdown was prudent. He slammed the media and public health experts, saying they pushed a false narrative that the state could be swamped with new cases that would overwhelm the health care system.

But now many Florida hospitals have significant numbers of coronavirus cases, straining their capacity. The system hasn’t been overwhelmed yet and Florida still has significantly fewer deaths than other hard-hit states such as New York, but Florida’s total virus cases recently surpassed New York’s caseload and the early predictions made by public health models look more prescient now.

...Just 41% of Florida voters approve of the governor’s job performance in Quinnipiac poll, down from 53% in April. The poll also found that 79% of Floridians believe face masks should be required in public, 62% think it’s unsafe to reopen schools and 61% believe DeSantis reopened the economy too quickly.

Just 37% of Floridians approve of how DeSantis has handled the coronavirus response, compared with 59% who disapprove.

That spells trouble for a politician who will face reelection in two years and is viewed by many as a harboring presidential ambitions. DeSantis’s reputation has taken a big blow, and it could sink further.

The next big test for the governor comes this month when schools are scheduled to reopen in many parts of the state.

Right now that looks like a daunting task rife with risks for students, teachers, parents and the broader community. If it doesn’t go well, many people may blame DeSantis.

And that was a news report! You can probably imagine what the editorials look like. In fact, you don't have to imagine; here's one from the Sun-Sentinel Friday: Help us out, Gov. DeSantis. We’re dying here. The editors are asking DeSantis to get over his ideological proclivities and finally mandate "a sensible and long-overdue statewide mask requirement... With each passing day, COVID-19 continues to careen out of control in Florida. A record 216 deaths were reported Wednesday. That broke the previous record of 191 deaths, reported just Tuesday. 'The numbers are not stabilizing,' Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry told the Sun Sentinel’s Lisa Huriash on Tuesday." [Saturday the Florida COVID death report-- for Friday-- was 256, another record, bringing the total to 6,843. Every family notification should be accompanied by an apology signed by DeSantis.]

Help her out, governor. Help us all out. Far better that you require people to wear masks in public than to continue fostering conditions that will force another shutdown.

Your refusal to impose a mask order-- a requirement now in effect in 32 other states-- is out-of-touch with the mainstream. A new Quinnipiac poll found 79 percent of Floridians support a mask requirement, including 60 percent of Republicans. If that’s not a mandate, what is?

...On Tuesday, police arrested a local Plantation gym owner who thinks a local mask ordinance violates his personal freedoms and doesn’t apply to him. So like a high schooler who sneaks out at night, he let customers huff and puff mask-free. But as Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes made clear Monday in upholding Palm Beach County’s mask ordinance: “We do not have a constitutional right to infect others.”

Some people, like the gym owner, need a governor to take away the car keys. The rest of us need you to do more to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. For almost all of us now know someone who has either gotten sick, or died. And we’re scared.

...A lot has been learned about the coronavirus over the course of these five long months, including this: When it comes to masks, asking nicely doesn’t always work.

The science is clear: Face coverings reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus and can save lives.

Issue a mask mandate, governor. If you can wear one in public, so can we all.

According to a report by a trio of Politico writers yesterday, campaign contributions are flooding into state Democratic parties, including Florida's. This is good and bad. The good part is obvious; the bad part is the state parties are, overwhelming and certainly in Florida, run by hacks with littleton no ability how to spend the money to do any good. Money would be much, much better spent sending it directly to candidates-- especially in Florida, where incompetent leaders Terrie Rizzo and Juan Peñalosa-- dictated to by narrowly-focused state elected leaders like Gary "ruled by his dick" Farmer-- are more adept at sabotaging Democratic candidates than doing them any good. In his own defense, Peñalosa, the state executive director, a failed campaign operative and lobbyist for a GOP firm, said "Every discussion I have with donors focuses on what the party, and only the party, can do-- building volunteer infrastructure, protecting the vote and doing year-round coalition building. Because, if the state party doesn’t have the resources to do that work, our candidates begin the race three feet behind the starting line."

Goal ThermometerThat sounds good but the Florida Democratic Party has been completely inept at accomplishing anything, other than strengthening the Florida Republican Party. And, they are still refusing the give Florida state legislative candidates access to vote files in their districts even though their demands for payment have been met by state Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Nikki Fried. Please don't even consider contributing to the sloths at the Florida Democratic Party-- think Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her ilk of self-dealing rooks and scoundrels-- and give directly to the candidates on the front lines, like the men and women you'll find by clicking on the 2020 Florida thermometer above.

I spoke with one of Florida's most admired elected officials, who defined what many people see as exactly what's wrong with a hopelessly mismanaged and incompetent, and nearly useless, state party:

The complete absence of anything resembling a widely shared agenda.
Identity-politics division.
No effort to organize resources.
Enormous corporate power arrayed against it.

And here I thought that the enormous corporate power had purchased the state party apparatus and was using it against progressives.

Down With Tyranny

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