Donald Trump took the first shot earlier this week. The former president called politicians who keep their COVID booster status secret “gutless.”
Though Trump didn’t mention DeSantis by name it was clear who he was referring to.
In response to Trump’s thinly-veiled shot, DeSantis said on Friday that he regretted not opposing the Trump administration’s calls for lockdowns at the beginning of the pandemic more forcefully.
However, instead of blaming Trump directly, DeSantis called out Dr. Anthony Fauci for successfully lobbying for sweeping lockdowns. Of course, Fauci wasn’t the president.
And DeSantis Didn’t Stop There
As Hot Air’s Allahpundit explains:
And he does name the former president in a related context. “I was telling Trump, ‘Stop the flights from China,’” DeSantis boasts at one point. Trump being Trump, he’s not going to appreciate DeSantis trying to take credit for the travel ban he imposed. In fact, if you believe media reports, DeSantis not giving Trump enough credit for his political success is a chronic sore spot for 45.
Skip to 31:00 for the Q&A. The angry Trump statement responding to this should be an all-timer.
However, articles from the spring of 2020 show that DeSantis’ orders were initially strict. Stricter than some Republican governors in fact.
DeSantis has done a stellar job at asserting himself as the most anti-restriction Republican politician in all the land, with some justification. He kept Florida’s schools open while kids in most other states were languishing in remote learning. But it’s not true that Florida’s policies are the most hostile to COVID precautions of any state; Texas, for instance, bars private companies from mandating vaccinations for employees, a step DeSantis hasn’t taken. (To his credit.) And it’s not true that Florida never had a lockdown, as the headline above reminds us. Kristi Noem has been keen to remind Republican voters that only one governor never issued a stay-at-home order and it ain’t DeSantis.
So, Where Does the Truth Lie?
If DeSantis was opposed to lockdowns in the early days of the pandemic, that view was not reflected in his actions. In March 2020, DeSantis ordered schools to shut down, closed down bars and prohibited indoor dining at restaurants, like many other governors did. But some of Florida’s restrictions went far beyond that of many other states and the guidance issued by the federal government, such as requiring travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Louisiana to self-isolate for two weeks after entering the state. DeSantis even ordered police checkpoints to be set up on interstates to monitor travelers coming into Florida. Restrictions for New York area travelers were not lifted until August 2020.
On the other hand, DeSantis lifted his COVID restrictions far earlier than most states.
If DeSantis runs for president in 2024, then a collision with Trump is all but inevitable. Yet few expected it to happen so soon.
Fewer expected it to be about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and lockdowns.
Interestingly, one political strategist argued that Trump and DeSantis are working together behind the scenes to strengthen Trump’s appeal with moderate suburban voters.
In an op-ed for NBC News, David Mark opines that the feud gives Trump the advantage of sounding more reasonable on vaccines to swing voters without causing DeSantis lasting political damage.
Trump has been more vocal than ever about defending the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. The former president notably pushed back against Candace Owen for baselessly insinuating that vaccines were killing people in a recent interview.
All things considered, I’m curious to see what you think. Who will come out on top, if the Trump-DeSantis détente has ended? And do you think that Trump is trying to win back suburbanites who fled to Biden in 2020?