It was the kind of headline that ambitious politicians dream of. In mid-March, Politico published a report under text that read, "How Ron DeSantis won the pandemic."
The evidence to bolster the claim was dubious, but the report nevertheless featured Florida's Republican governor -- the year before his re-election campaign and in advance of his likely presidential bid -- gloating that he's had the "better approach" to responding to the pandemic.
To be sure, the Sunshine State has had peaks and valleys over the course of the COVID crisis, but DeSantis' boasts look especially misplaced now. In the United States last week, one in five COVID cases was found in Florida. Over the last two weeks, hospitalization numbers have nearly doubled. Infection numbers are up nearly 200%.
Conditions in Jacksonville -- Florida's largest city by population -- appear especially difficult right now. NBC News reported yesterday on local hospitals breaking their own records for COVID patients.
It was against this backdrop that Ron DeSantis last week thought it'd be a good idea to leave town. The editorial board of the Orlando Sentinel published this brutal piece this morning:
[W]here was Gov. Ron DeSantis as this health crisis resurged? Visiting hospitals? Consulting with physicians and public health experts? Huddling with his staff to brainstorm ways of persuading more Floridians to take the vaccine that would nip this pandemic in the bud? Nope. Florida's governor was in Texas, 1,000 miles from Tallahassee, burnishing his 2024 presidential ambitions with a visit to the southern border.
The same piece added that the Republican governor returned to Florida over the weekend, but promptly turned his attention to Dr. Anthony Fauci, appearing at a far-right event and mocking the doctor's pitching abilities.
The Orlando Sentinel's editorial board added, "To save lives, he must start acting like Florida's governor and less like he's auditioning for Turning Point USA or Texas Gov. Greg Abbott or whatever Fox News host comes calling."
Or put another way, perhaps Ron DeSantis hasn't "won the pandemic" after all.