MIAMI (NewsNation) — All eyes are on the battleground state of Florida as voters are set to go to the polls in less than 45 days. The attention comes as Ron DeSantis has built national attention as Florida’s governor, calling it the “freest state in America” over it’s COVID-19 regulations. While other states shut down during the pandemic, Florida stayed open, at least for part of the pandemic. It resonated with some voters, especially small business owners.
“The only person I can give 100% credit for is my dude, the one and only Ron DeSantis. I’ll be honest. That guy kept all my friends’ small businesses open down here and if he wasn’t governor, definitely be a higher percentage that I wouldn’t be here, like no questions about it,” Steve Bradley, a Florida business owner, told NewsNation.
Bradley said his business is booming and says he believes his business would have been wiped out if he wasn’t in Florida.
DeSantis presided over Republicans outnumbering Democrats in voter registration for the first time in Florida history. It was fueled by a shift in Hispanic voters — Hispanic voters registered as Republicans increased by about 15% from August 2020 to August 2022, outpacing the overall increase in GOP voter registration of 5% as well as the growth of total Hispanic voters of 7.8% during that same two-year period, state records show.
DeSantis’ refusal to shutter businesses amid lockdowns only boosted his approval among his base and independents, and helped further sway Hispanic voters.
People flocked to Florida from states like New York and California. Now, many are questioning how they will vote. While some may have liked DeSantis’s COVID-19 policies, they may not necessarily agree with other policies he’s implemented. Even with the recent news of him flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, it’s possible the people he attracted amid his pandemic policies could end up not supporting him — it’s a variable Florida hasn’t seen before.
Ron Filipkowski represents the other side: Floridians who switched the opposite way from Republican to Democrat. Filipkowski was a Republican for 34 years but says DeSantis his decision to outlaw vaccine mandates was the opposite of a “Freedom Agenda.”
“But wasn’t really about freedom. I just thought that it was completely reckless. And for DeSantis, everything is about extremes,” Filipkowski said. “It’s either in his view, it’s either total lockdown or total wide open.”
Meanwhile, many are waiting to see if DeSantis will run for president, but first, he has the governor’s race against former Republican and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.
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