“My message from Florida is this: When Joe Biden violates the Constitution, when Joe Biden attacks the jobs of Floridians and Americans, when Joe Biden targets the livelihood of Florida families and American families, I am fighting back against him,” DeSantis said to cheers, criticizing the president’s executive order mandating mid-and large-employer Covid vaccines for workers.
DeSantis’s trip to Nebraska is part of his ongoing split-screen effort as he prepares for his reelection back home while laying the groundwork for a White House bid if former President Donald Trump sits out the 2024 contest. His emerging national presence has made him a top target for Democrats in 2022 as well as Biden — but so far he’s been basking in his moment.
His visit to the Midwest is one of at least a dozen out of state trips he’s taken since May. He has gone everywhere from Southern California to Kentucky to the outskirts of Milwaukee and to New Jersey. Since most are campaign visits, they are not included on his public schedule and the governor rarely informs the public of his out-of-state travel. He also visited the Texas-Mexico border in July with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, where they ripped President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
DeSantis didn’t have the crowd on Sunday to himself, though, and was joined by two other possible 2024 presidential candidates: former Vice President Mike Pence and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Early Republican primary polling shows the three lead the potential field of candidates if Trump decides against a rematch run against Biden.
Another future presidential candidate may also have spoken Sunday: Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who hosted the event. His second and last term ends next year and Ricketts hasn’t ruled out a future bid for president.
Both Biden and DeSantis have attacked the other over managing Covid, to the delight of their respective political bases, and each has watched his job-approval ratings slide as coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths rose this summer due to the spread of the Delta variant.
Florida led the way. Its death rate from Covid since the pandemic began now ranks as the 12th-highest in the nation. It was 27th in the nation in February, before Delta variant spread and after prior doom-and-gloom predictions failed to materialize.
DeSantis’s forbidding of mask mandates statewide — along with his feuding with Biden and Democrats, and his constant criticism of national news media coverage of Florida — made him a GOP heartthrob nationwide and put him in the top tier of potential Republican White House hopefuls.
The most recent public poll, released by the Republican-leaning Echelon Insights last month, showed DeSantis marginally ahead of second-place Pence, by 25-23 percent, in a Trump-less presidential primary. That represents a 7-point loss for DeSantis in a month. Cruz was in third, with 9 percent of the hypothetical vote.
A more recent poll by Morning Consult Political Intelligence showed that DeSantis’ net approval rating in Florida had dropped 14 points between early July and late August. The