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Biden blindsides Trump’s Florida ally

Mar 25, 2020
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In a sign of Biden’s muted microphone, DeSantis wasn’t asked at either of his two news conferences Wednesday about the former vice president’s criticism. DeSantis went on to praise Trump for doing a “great job” but he chafed at the number of New Yorkers who are able to fly to Florida, potentially bringing the coronavirus, which would defeat some shelter-in-place containment strategies.

“The policies are ineffective because you have flights,” DeSantis said.

Echoing Trump, DeSantis reiterated that his cure-can’t-be-worse-than-the-disease approach accounts for the potential economic and social devastation from government-mandated social distancing.

“You’re going to see not only economic consequences from that, you are going to see a lot of public health consequences from that,” he continued. “I’m worried about the mental health impact of what’s happened. I’m worried about drug abuse, based on some of the dislocations. I’m worried about suicides. I’m worried about domestic violence. And I’m worried about child abuse. In any situation like that, all this stuff goes up. This is one of maybe the most significant situations people have faced.”

Biden advisers and Democrats say they expect the policies of DeSantis and Trump will ultimately lead to both a public health disaster and a bad economy for Trump, who was planning on running for reelection on his economic record.

In 2016, Trump won Florida by 1.2 percentage points. Florida’s large senior population lives off investments, making coronavirus a twin threat because it kills the elderly and social distancing is damaging the stock market.

“In a 1-percent state where the sitting GOP governor has been seen as slow to respond, it can make a difference,” said Greg Goddard, a Democratic consultant from the state who served as former presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar’s Southeast finance director.

The Trump campaign’s Florida spokeswoman, Emma Vaughn, accused Democrats of “politicizing a national emergency … Now is not the time for partisan politics — we are Floridians first.”

Biden advisers say he’s focusing on Florida because it’s the poster child for dangerous policy rooted in political calculus, not public health. They point to editorials criticizing DeSantis, stories detailing the state’s relatively slow response and an infamous interview with drunk spring breakers expressing no worries in Miami Beach about getting coronavirus in a state with a sizable elderly population.

Biden’s criticisms of DeSantis and Trump came on the heels of a new national TV ad from a pro-Biden super PAC, Unite The Country, highlighting Trump’s statements downplaying the threat of the virus earlier this month. It was followed by House Democrats from the state who sent a letter to DeSantis urging him to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order.

One of the congressmen who signed the letter, Rep. Ted Deutch, said DeSantis needs to use his close relationship with the president to get more equipment and help for Florida.

“The governor has a chance to use that relationship he has with the president of the United States,” Deutch said. “So, yeah. Florida’s a really important state. But if Vice President Biden is pointing out what the governor is doing wrong, it’s a fair point to raise.”

Gary Fineout contributed to this report.

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