(NewsNation Now) — A new chapter in the ongoing war of words between President Joe Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is fueling the rumors that DeSantis could end up being the Republican challenger in 2024.
DeSantis has built the strongest case of any Republican so far not named Donald Trump to be the standard-bearer of the party in 2024.
But, his pandemic policies could get him in trouble in a nationwide election. He’s scored points with the former president’s base by defying medical recommendations for masking or other COVID-19 mitigations.
“Joe Biden suggested that if you don’t do lockdown policies then you should ‘get out of the way,’” DeSantis said Wednesday. “But let me tell you this: if you’re coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I’m standing in your way.”
Biden has said lockdowns should not be necessary, but has called on states to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance. That includes resuming indoor mask mandates in areas with substantial or high spread based on the CDC’s data. That currently includes all of Florida.
As the delta variant caused a surge in Florida cases, DeSantis’ approval rating has tanked in a new statewide poll.
Still, DeSantis’ popularity among the Trump base could leave him in an awkward position if the former president decides to run again.
“Ron Desantis is politically smart enough to know that he needs to stay close to Trump, and to stay in his good graces until he has secured that position and been reelected in Florida,” former Republican National Committee spokesperson Lisa Camoosa Miller told NewsNation. “I totally believe he will have to separate at that point. But he’s in a much stronger political position to be able to do that.”
In the last CPAC straw poll, Trump came out as the 2024 favorite. DeSantis came in second.
The DeSantis and Trump camps butted heads recently when the former president held a Florida rally just days after the tragic condo collapse that killed 98 people.
DeSantis asked Trump not to come, but the rally went on.
The current president is also taking jabs at DeSantis. This afternoon Biden was asked about Desantis and replied, “Governor who?”
Still, that didn’t stop White House press secretary Jen Psaki from turning up the administration’s criticism, saying it was a “fact” that DeSantis “has taken steps that are counter to public health recommendations.”
“Frankly, this is too serious, deadly serious, to be doing partisan name calling,” Psaki said.
She added that administration officials remained in touch with Florida’s public health officials, despite DeSantis’ posture. Psaki also said the White House was focused on ensuring Floridians know what steps they should be taking to safeguard their health, “even if those are not steps taken at the top of the leadership in that state.”
Republican governors attacking Democratic presidents and vice versa is nothing new, meanwhile. And even heated partisan back-and-forth as the coronavirus rages has happened before.
During the early months of the pandemic last year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily press briefings were carried live on national television and cheered by Democrats across the country as a science-based antidote to then-President Donald Trump’s own daily sessions with the media.
One day when Cuomo was holding his briefing, Trump tweeted that the New York governor was doing too much “complaining” and should “get out there and get the job done. Stop talking.” Cuomo was asked about that and shot back, “If he’s sitting home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work.”
Cuomo is now under intense pressure to resign after an investigation found he sexually harassed nearly a dozen women and worked to retaliate against one of his accusers. But his state is no longer the virus hot spot that Florida is.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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