As popularity plummets, DeSantis rebrands Florida COVID-19 response

By Bethany Blankley
The Center Square
August 1, 2020

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

(The Center Square) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warns the state faces two urgencies that will require unified collaboration to successfully overcome – the immediate emerging threat posed by Hurricane Isaias and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

DeSantis in a Thursday night address unveiled a new directive in orchestrating the state’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, an urge-not-order “One Goal One Florida” initiative” that asks Floridians to voluntarily follow four guidelines, including wearing a face mask anyplace there are other people.

“COVID-19 has been a significant challenge for all Floridians but I’m 100 percent confident we can, and will, overcome this challenge,” DeSantis said. “To that end, I’m asking all Floridians to join me in this important effort – ‘One Goal One Florida.’”

The urge-not-order “One Goal One Florida” initiative” asks Floridians to follow four guidelines:

  • Protect the vulnerable, including the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions;
  • Practice proper hygiene, including washing your hands;
  • Practice social distancing, avoid closed spaces, crowded places;
  • Wear a mask anytime in close contact with others.

DeSantis issued his rebranded message as state health officials report rising COVID-19 death counts and at least two recent polls indicate the first-term governor’s popularity has plummeted since the onset of the pandemic in March.

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 dashboard Friday recorded 253 more coronavirus deaths over the previous 24-hour period. It marks the fourth straight day Florida broke its own single-day high in reported deaths. Since March, 6,966 people have died in Florida from the disease, according to the DOH.

The DOH Friday also reported a decline in COVID-19 cases for a second consecutive day and for the fifth time in the last week, indicators DeSantis cited as cause for “ hope and optimism.”

On Wednesday, 9,943 positive tests were recorded. On Thursday, the DOH reported 9,007 new cases. Overall, 470,386 have tested positive for COVID-19 statewide since March.

DeSantis’ attempt to reset the state’s COVID-19 response with new messaging is a good idea if recent polls critical of the governor are accurate.

In a Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy survey of 625 registered Florida voters released this week, 45 percent approve of DeSantis’ performance while 49 percent disapprove, a striking plummet in approval for the young governor who entered 2020 as the state’s most popular elected official.

In a December Mason-Dixon poll, 66 percent of respondents, including 40 percent of Democrats, approved of DeSantis’ performance while only 26 percent disapproved.

Mason-Dixon, based in Jacksonville and Washington, D.C., said in its July 20-23 survey only 17 percent of Democrats approved of DeSantis’ performance while 79 percent disapproved.

In December, 62 percent of surveyed independent voters supported him. In Mason-Dixon’s July survey, 42 percent approve and 48 percent disapprove of DeSantis.

Mason-Dixon’s survey buttresses a Clarity Campaign Labs poll published this week that found 53 percent of 2,039 likely voters surveyed disapprove of DeSantis while only 41 percent give him a passing grade.

As expected, Democrats participating in the July 6-13 survey largely disapprove (80 percent) while Republicans largely approve (69) of the governor.

Significantly, however, as with the Mason-Dixon survey, a majority of independents (53 percent) in Clarity Campaign’s poll disapprove of DeSantis’ performance.

About 30 percent of Florida’s nearly 12 million registered voters are independents without party affiliation; they are a battleground constituency within a battleground state.

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