Then there is the political calculation. Several Republican governors, including Abbott in Texas, face major challenges from their right. Some, like DeSantis in Florida and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, have their sights set on 2024. Both of these factors are pushing GOP governors to scramble to bolster grassroots support for the party.
“This audience is at the center of all of these decisions,” said Republican consultant Brendan Steinhauser.
And right now that base is anti-mandate. A recent CBS News / YouGov poll found that 64% of Republicans would prefer to vote for a candidate who promotes vaccines, but even more – 75% – want a candidate who opposes mandates. An August Morning Consult / POLITICO poll found that only about 35% of Republicans supported mandatory coronavirus vaccines.
Vaccine requirements “remain very unpopular with the Republican base,” GOP strategist Ryan Williams said. “Any support for a vaccine term at this point would be damaging to any governor considering running for president as a Republican. “
DeSantis has built a national reputation for fighting all kinds of Covid restrictions, including school mask warrants and efforts to force companies to implement vaccine warrants on staff for customers.
As the Delta variant rose and DeSantis battled schools for mask mandates, its approval rating fell below 50%, according to an August Quinnipiac University poll.
But DeSantis sank in. And as the Delta variant began to recede and the number of new infections dwindled, DeSantis saw its poll count remain high nationwide among Republicans. A GOP poll found DeSantis led former Vice President Mike Pence, 22-15, in a moot presidential clash without former President Donald Trump on the ballot.
Now DeSantis is opening a new battle with the Biden administration over the proposed federal vaccine mandate, pledging to challenge the requirement in federal court and fine a local county of $ 3.57 million. after ordering hundreds of its employees to get vaccinated.
“We basically don’t want people to be discriminated against,” DeSantis told reporters last week. “It has become a question of politicians who want to control people. … Why would you want people to lose their livelihood? “