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    Wednesday, May 29, 2024

    DeSantis should worry about winning Florida again

    Ron DeSantis apparently wants to be president. His pitch rests on the "Florida blueprint," the stuff he's done as the state's governor. But the assumption that the American majority wants much of the DeSantis program is shaky. It's not even clear that Floridians do.

    A Pew poll has 56% of Floridians supporting legal abortion in all or most cases. And that was taken before DeSantis actually made abortion illegal. Polls also show most Floridians opposed to permitless, concealed carry of weapons. Thanks to DeSantis, angry shoppers mumbling to themselves at Publix can hide weapons of war in their backpacks.

    One doubts that many residents of Florida lose sleep over drag queens. (I don't think about drag queens for months at a time.) But strictly regulating them is a DeSantis obsession that he includes in his blueprint.

    Of greater concern are his unhinged attacks on business, and of all businesses, his state's biggest private employer and taxpayer, The Walt Disney Co. As for his jihad against Disney, I simply can't explain it.

    Then there's his ban on vaccine mandates. He even mocks Donald Trump's Operation Warp Speed program for developing a COVID vaccine, one of the former president's few glories. With the virus largely corralled, there are few mandates anymore. But in the jaws of the pandemic, DeSantis forbade cruise companies operating in his state from requiring proof of COVID shots. Can you imagine the strain on businesses trying to lure older customers to a crowded ship during a potentially deadly pandemic?

    DeSantis has apparently never held a serious job in the private sector.

    Now onto Florida politics. Florida has not become a solidly red state as pundits confidently declare. Barack Obama won the state twice, and a Democrat just got elected mayor of Jacksonville, the state's largest city. Joe Biden thinks Florida is up for grabs in 2024, and his political antennae are pretty sensitive.

    As for DeSantis' commanding victory in 2022, he was running against a ghost candidate and a Democratic Party that couldn't find a pulse. In 2018, he defeated Andrew Gillum, an ethically challenged Democrat who had called for abolishing ICE, the immigration enforcement agency. Even then, he won by less than a point.

    Densely populated South Florida is not the American South. It teems with migrants from the North who may like Florida's lower taxes and its weather in February. And they may dislike left fringe ideas on gender pronouns and such.

    I know lots of these people, and one thing they want is access to abortion. And their reasons go beyond wanting a way to end their 16-year-old daughter's unwanted pregnancy. They can afford to do so, even if that means a trip back to New Jersey.

    But they do understand that abortion bans force mostly poor women into having children they can't afford. Unwanted children living in poverty are more likely to fall into lives of crime and other dysfunction. These voters know that even in a state with a meager social safety net, the bills come to them.

    Meanwhile, Florida is one of only 11 states that hasn't expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, thanks in part to DeSantis. That's even though the state would never have to bear more than 90% of the cost.

    And who pays for the unnecessary emergency room care — for the sore throats or a couple of stitches? Guess who. By the way, Florida has the most expensive emergency room care in the country, averaging $3,102 a visit.

    If Florida Democrats find an acceptable candidate, they might just recapture the governorship. America probably doesn't want to become DeSantis' Florida. Florida may not like that either.

    Froma Harrop covers the waterfront of politics, economics and culture with an uncoventional approach.

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