Sunday, April 05, 2020

Politico Ranks Florida Governor RONALD DION DeSANTIS Worst State Leader on Coronavirus

The Gubernatorial Busts

1. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)

DeSantis is one of Trump’s favorite governors and a potential 2024 presidential prospect. But he has made a bad first impression on the rest of the country by failing to fully shut down Florida’s beaches before or after they were overrun with partiers on spring break, many of whom then traveled home to locations throughout the United States.
He also resisted making a statewide stay-at-home order until finally relentingon Wednesday — in the wake of intense pressure from Florida Democrats, and televised comments Wednesday morning by the surgeon general urging all governors to get their residents to stay at home. Before that point, his seemingly toughest measure was issuing a quarantine for travelers coming from the New York City tri-state area or Louisiana, but the focus on hot spots ignores all the community spread inside Florida and in other states. Florida already has nearly 7,000 confirmed cases, ranking it 17th among the states on a per capita basis.
Earlier, DeSantis justified eschewing broader measures. “We’re also in a situation where we have counties who have no community spread,” he said on March 19. “We have some counties that don’t have a single positive test yet.” But everything we have experienced strongly suggests you don't want to wait until you have community spread before taking strong action. 
DeSantis may still be helped by Trump, who may be giving Florida preferential treatment. According to the Washington Post, other governors have had difficulty getting supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, but not DeSantis. And Trump has been influenced by DeSantis’ argument that some social distancing measures are too harmful to the economy. The Post quoted an anonymous White House official, who explained, “The president knows Florida is so important for his reelection, so when DeSantis says that, it means a lot. He pays close attention to what Florida wants.”
For now, DeSantis remains on the GOP’s 2024 shortlist. But if DeSantis encourages Trump to make bad decisions, and if Florida is getting supplies while other states scrounge, the governor’s ties to the president may become a serious liability for his own future prospects.

2. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R)

Aside from its next-door neighbor Louisiana, Mississippi is the Southern state with the most confirmed Covid-19 cases on a per capita basis. Yet Reeves has made a hash out of the response. 
As Mississippi’s localities began issuing stay-at-home edicts, Reeves issued his own order on March 24, broadly defining what business and social activity is “essential” — including religious services — and declared any order from any other “governing body” which conflicts with the state order to be “suspended and unenforceable.” Two days later, under pressure, he tried to clarify that the state order provided only a “floor,” which counties and cities could surpass, but confusingly added that “no order can keep those essential services from going on.” Mississippi mayors have been confused and have interpreted the governor differently.
Reeves had resisted a statewide stay-at-home order on ideological grounds, insisting that “Mississippi's never going to be China. Mississippi's never going to be North Korea.” Yet as the virus spreads, Reeves may find himself dragged into a more expansive response.

On Tuesday, Reeves issued his first stay-at-home order, but in just one county, Lauderdale, where a nursing home has suffered an outbreak. “The businesses in Lauderdale County are simply losing customers to surrounding counties and BTW covid doesn’t stop at the county line,” tweeted the mayor of Tupelo, which is in Lee County. 
On Wednesday, Reeves issued a stay-at-home order that encompasses the whole state — but which doesn't take effect for another two days. If Mississippi’s spread becomes severe, Reeves’ haphazard response will come back to haunt him.

3. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R)

On March 14, Stitt tweeted a picture of his family eating at a restaurant, as if he deserved an award for defying the coronavirus panic. “It’s packed tonight!” he enthusiastically shared, but facing blowback, later deleted the post.
The next day, Stitt declared a state of emergency. Then, the day after that, the governor’s spokesman said, “the governor will continue to take his family out to dinner and to the grocery store without living in fear, and encourages Oklahomans to do the same.” Stitt still has not issued a statewide stay-at-home order. In the absence of one, major Oklahoma cities have imposed their own over the past few days.
Two weeks later, Oklahoma’s rate of infection is intensifying, and testing is minimal. Stitt is not the only governor who has hesitated to implement stiff restrictions, but he may become a case study of the pitfalls of glib social media use in a time of crisis.

4. Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D)

You may remember Ige as the governor who, for 17 minutes in 2018, couldn’t correct a false warning of an incoming ballistic missile because he didn’t know his Twitter password.
Earlier this month, Ige tapped his Lieutenant Governor Josh Green to play a key role in the state’s response to coronavirus. Green is an emergency room doctor, so his calls for strict travel restrictions and quarantines on arrivals carried great weight. But once Green publicly pushed for strong measures, Ige cut him out of the loop, instructing Cabinet officials not to consult with Green, and keeping Green out of his press conferences.

Hawaii faced an influx of “crisis tourists” looking to ride out the pandemic in paradise. But as the governor of a tourism-dependent state, Ige hesitated to act. On March 19, the state House speaker, fellow Democrat Scott Saiki, upbraided Ige in a letter, describing the administration’s response as “utterly chaotic,” causing “mass confusion among the public.”
Ige has now made peace with Green, and recently ordered a 14-day quarantine for arrivals — though there was a five-day gap between the announcement and the implementation. A stay-at-home order has been issued, though with exceptions for swimming and surfing. Ige better hope those steps are enough.

5. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R)

Ige isn’t the only governor taking heat from his No. 2. Ivey is being shown up by her lieutenant governor, Will Ainsworth.
On March 25, Ainsworth, who serves on Ivey’s coronavirus task force, wrote a letter to the panel’s other members. After some perfunctory pleasantries, he lit into them: “A tsunami of hospital patients is likely to fall upon Alabama in the not too distant future, and it is my opinion that this task force and the state are not taking a realistic view of the numbers or adequately preparing for what awaits us.”
The day after, Ivey sounded a completely different note at a press conference, when she dismissed the idea of a statewide stay-at-home order. “Y’all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York sate, we are not California,” she said. (Washington Post data journalist Philip Bump warned Ivey that Alabama’s caseload was growing faster than California’s.) 
Then, at a press conference one day after that, Ivey dumped on Ainsworth, saying he was “not helpful” in “raising challenges and criticism and issues we are aware of, and offering no solutions and showing no willingness to work with the task force and the team willing to fix it.” (Ainsworth’s letter did, in fact, offer solutions regarding health care capacity.)
Ivey, who is not yet term-limited, would turn 78 before the 2022 election. By that time, Ainsworth, who won a separate election for lieutenant governor and did not run with Ivey on a ticket, would be 41, and well-positioned to move into the governor’s mansion. Perhaps Ivey will just want to retire by 2022. But if she does plan on seeking reelection, she now has to worry about a possible primary challenger who has successfully separated himself from her questionable pandemic response.

6. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R)

Justice is a billionaire political neophyte who won the 2016 gubernatorial election as a Democrat, then, in 2017, switched to become a Republican and a Trump ally. His lack of experience in crisis management has been glaringly obvious from his discordant statements and actions.

On March 16, he was preaching defiance. “For crying out loud, go to the grocery stores,” Jutice said. “If you want to go to Bob Evans and eat, go to Bob Evans and eat.” Then, the very next day, he shut down dine-in eating at the state’s restaurants. 
The following Saturday, Justice gave a disjointed address which, according to the Associated Press, featured “jumbled sets of numbers that puzzled viewers in their randomness.” He warned of dire consequences, but neglected to issue a stay-at-home order. “Governor Urges Action, Takes None,” read a headline in the Charleston Gazette-Mail the next day. Later that week, Justice finally announced a stay-at-home order. 
This wobbly performance is coming at the worst possible time for Justice politically, because he faces a contested party primary for the gubernatorial nomination this spring. (Justice just pushed back the primary from May 12 to June 9.) Justice faces six primary opponents, with the most spirited challenge coming from Justice’s former Commerce secretary, Woody Thrasher. Justice has been a heavy favorite to date, but a mismanaged crisis can change poll numbers very fast.

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