The most dangerous position for a Republican is to be popular, but not named Trump.
Such is the case for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is having a moment. Just one year ago, he was being blamed for dangerous Spring Break behavior in Miami, while Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo, Gretchen Whitmer, and Gavin Newsom were being hailed as responsible leaders. One year later, their fortunes have reversed. The “lockdown” governors have all been plagued with scandals and/or COVID-19 surges, while DeSantis’s approval rating in Florida has shot up since it hit its COVID nadir. Meanwhile, he is garnering considerable national buzz and leads the 2024 Republican field in several statewide and national surveys.
His popularity stems in large part from proving the media wrong. Now, I suspect he got lucky in this regard. COVID turned out to be airborne, and Florida (a warm state that is not densely populated) was uniquely positioned for success. Still, DeSantis’s decision to reopen Florida’s economy turned out to be the smart bet. What is more, the 60 Minutes’ botched hit on him was a gift served up on a silver platter. It was exactly what anyone aspiring to inherit the GOP mantle from Trump might want.