President Joe Biden and his administration are taking square aim at Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in response to his war against mask mandates and general opposition to COVID-19 measures.
DeSantis is the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, if Donald Trump opts not to run, and Biden's advisers say the president has had little choice, politically, but to take on the Florida governor in recent weeks.
"Biden advisers see DeSantis — who has defiantly fought mask mandates as infections and hospitalizations skyrocketed in the battleground state — as a foil to a president whose strength is his empathetic style and safety-first response to coronavirus that helped him defeat DeSantis' benefactor, President Trump, nine months ago," Politico reported Thursday.
The strategy has played out in a war of words in recent weeks, with Biden telling DeSantis to "get out of the way" and asking "Governor who?" in response to a question about DeSantis, suggesting the governor was so insignificant he didn't recognize his name.
Celinda Lake, a pollster and Biden political adviser, told Politico: "DeSantis epitomizes the opposite choice in the sense of the way he handles this issue and his personal style. Without getting into the polarization of Trump — a lot of voters think Trump is sort of gone from the scene for now — he reinforces the contrast that helped us win the election and sharpens the focus on the Trump style and policies."
Another adviser added: "DeSantis is Trump's Mini Me. And he's going to suffer the same fate as Trump. Unfortunately, a lot of people will get sick and die."
Biden's advisers say DeSantis — who is hawking "Don't Fauci My Florida" campaign merchandise and has gone so far as threatening to withhold the salaries of school superintendents who impose mask mandates — runs the risk of sounding like Trump, who once suggested the virus would simply disappear.
"He's not the first person to posit that the virus is just going to go away. And that person was wrong as well," said Dr. Cameron Webb, a senior White House Covid adviser.