Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis attempted to put minds at ease on Wednesday regarding the massive influx of new residents from so-called ‘blue states’ when he said most are registering as Republicans, including former Democratic voters.
DeSantis’ remarks, which came during a Republican town hall with Fox News host Sean Hannity and five other GOP governors, were in a context pertaining to COVID-19-inspired migration from Democrat-run states where lockdowns and mandatory businesses closures, as well as enduring mask mandates and social distancing, persist.
“The media at the beginning of this said Florida’s bad and I think it’s because they want to damage [former President Donald] Trump in Florida, they want to damage me. So, they just kept saying it was bad,” DeSantis said. “And even though the facts didn’t say it, like literally last April, they’re saying Florida is doing worse than New York. New York was like 10 times worse.”
While he adjusted his policies early in the pandemic as he moved to protect his more vulnerable populations, especially elderly Floridians, who make up one of the state’s largest demographics. More recently, DeSantis led the way in ending coronavirus mandates including the wearing of masks and local orders against locking down businesses and residents. He also signed legislation preventing the adoption of so-called “vaccine passports” — electronic documentation that residents would need to present to venues in order to gain entrance.
All of his actions and the state’s GOP-led legislation have been met with approval by conservatives.
“And so, I think what it did is the people that buy those phony narratives for these media, they probably aren’t coming to Florida,” DeSantis continued at the town hall. But most people see through it. But the people that see through it, they think like us. And so, I think a lot of these people are coming. I think they are registering as Republicans overwhelmingly.
“And I also have come across a lot of people who, quite frankly, were Democrats. The lockdowns turned them into Republicans,” he continued in response to a comment from Hannity who said he was aware of many people having moved from Democrat-controlled states like New Jersey, New York, and California, for red states like Florida and Texas.
DeSantis agreed, adding that he has “come across a lot of people” who told him they used to vote for Democrats until the pandemic hit and they were stuck in states where Democratic governors reacted with strict mandates that they kept in place long after other states like Florida proved they could safely be lifted.
“People say, ‘I was a Democrat because of education and I’m in California and they’re locking my kids out of school. I come to Florida, they’re in school.’ People are free. People are happy,” he noted.
“If you have a political party that puts the interest of teachers’ unions over the interest of kids being able to just access an education at all, that tells you all you need to know about the modern Democrat Party.”
Other Republican governors on the panel made similar observations regarding blue-state lockdowns.
“[T]he story that I think we need to tell about 2020 is that leadership has consequences. Just look at Democrat states and what happened to families and businesses there,” said South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who never implemented any lockdowns or mandated widespread business closures.
“You look at Republican states and how they’re growing and they’re thriving. … So we talk about statistics and facts all the time, but those stories are going to be powerful,” she said.
“I can tell you, locking kids out of school for over a year, that’s going to have ramifications for our country and those states [that did that]. That’s not going to be days, weeks, months. It’s going to be years, and some of these kids are not going to have a future as a result of those bad policies,” DeSantis added.
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