Florida’s DeSantis shares stats the nation needs as he’s eyed for 2024 presidential possibility

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday defended his decision to keep schools in his state open during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, citing statistics and data purporting to show lower infection rates for kids in the Sunshine State.

“Our kids belong in school and Florida’s decision to keep schools open was the right thing to do. When compared to other states of similar size, Florida has fewer pediatric cases per 100,000,” he wrote on Twitter.

He also noted in a separate tweet that, according to data he posted, Florida ranks far lower than most other states in terms of COVID mortality rates among senior citizens.

DeSantis’ position on schools during the pandemic is part of a larger COVID-19 response blueprint supporters have touted as highly successful, especially in comparison to other large Democrat-run states like California and New York. That includes an earlier pledge from the GOP governor he would never again lock down his state.

“You have lockdown states that are putting people out of business. We focused on lifting people up,” he told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo on Sunday.

“People view Florida as a place where they can follow their dreams. It is a free state,” he continued. “There’s a whole bunch of things we’ve been doing for COVID, but at the same time, we’ve lifted our state up, we’ve saved our economy and I think we’re going to be first out of the gate once we are able to put COVID behind our country.”

DeSantis’s bold approach, as well as his often contentious interactions with a predatory media, have made him an early favorite for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, especially if former President Donald Trump doesn’t decide to jump in.

“Ron DeSantis is having a moment with conservatives,” Josh Holmes, a top adviser to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, told Politico. “Part of this is liberals tried to cast this in the yin-and-yang comparison with Cuomo … It’s policy and it’s partly stylistic, the way he handles the news media and his blue-collar appeal.”

Holmes went on to say that it’s DeSantis’ combativeness with the left and the media, and his willingness to engage on the national stage rather than lay low, that is raising his profile among conservatives and — some dare say — Trump’s voters.

Pointing to a recent press conference where he announced he would be cracking down on big tech, Holmes noted that DeSantis also called out media double standards, saying “you can whiz on my leg but don’t tell me it’s raining.”

“A Republican saying that in a press conference is like a shot of adrenaline to the conservative grassroots,” he told Politico. “The reaction was ‘Wow!’ He actually said it!”

Politico went on to say that thus far, DeSantis is not widely known among the broad base of GOP voters around the country. And he himself has said he plans to run for reelection in Florida in 2022. 

But it’s early — and 2024 is still a ways off. Plus, DeSantis will have plenty of opportunities to meet and greet GOP voters around the country if he decides to throw his hat into the ring.

Some believe he will be a formidable candidate for one main reason: He is very Trump-like but without the former president’s rougher edges.

“He flies by instinct, not by instrument. He’s a natural,” Ryan Tyson, a top Republican pollster whose recent survey for a private client shows DeSantis beating Trump in approval in Florida, told Politico.

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Jon Dougherty

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