But as the Delta variant became more of a threat and people like DeSantis became more entrenched, waging war against mask mandates in their states, Biden had no choice but to engage more directly. (Luckily, a Florida judge rejected DeSantis’s mask ban on Friday.)
Enticing Biden into open battle is what DeSantis wants and needs. It takes attention off the unbelievable tragedy playing out in his state, a tragedy in which he is complicit.
As The Times reported on Wednesday: “More people in Florida are catching the coronavirus, being hospitalized and dying of Covid-19 now than at any previous point in the pandemic.” The Times continued, “This week, 227 virus deaths were being reported each day in Florida, on average, as of Tuesday, a record for the state and by far the most in the United States right now.”
The citizens of Florida do not even support DeSantis’s politically calculated pandemic positions. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found that “six in 10 Floridians support requiring masks in schools,” and “61 percent say recent rise in Covid-19 cases in Florida was preventable.”
But there are two things more important to DeSantis than those numbers. First, a different Quinnipiac poll found that regardless of how few Floridians approve of his performance, his approval rating is still higher than Biden’s in the state.
Second, DeSantis is playing to an electorate beyond the panhandle. As long as he is still mentioned in the same breath as Biden, even if the coverage is negative, he is playing well among Republicans. As long as he is fighting Washington and Democrats and experts, it doesn’t matter to entrenched Republicans that he’s not fighting the plague.
Some bodies must be sacrificed to appease the gods of partisan resistance.
To keep the spotlight, DeSantis is employing many of the same tricks as Trump: fighting with the media about coverage, deflecting blame onto Biden and convincing his followers that folding to facts is the same as forfeiting freedoms.