Gov. Ron DeSantis showing 'Trumpian' side in feud with President Biden

'He very much takes a very kind of Trumpian approach,' University of South Florida professor says
Posted at 6:16 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 18:17:22-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Rhetoric between the White House and Gov. Ron DeSantis has become an almost daily boxing match. And political experts said they don't expect it will stop anytime soon.

Assistant Professor Josh Scacco, a political communications specialist at the University of South Florida, said there's more to the feud than ideological differences on COVID-19 mitigation.

The president and governor are reaping political benefits by landing punches. DeSantis in particular, he said, is leaning into them.

"He very much takes a very kind of Trumpian approach and a Trumpian response," Scacco said. "What that does for him, at least, it raises his visibility, particularly amongst Republican voters, with national media, national fundraisers."

University of South Florida Assistant Professor Josh Scacco
University of South Florida Assistant Professor Josh Scacco speaks about the war of words between Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Biden.

The feud, which began last month, has translated into cash for DeSantis. The Republican is facing reelection in 2022 and potentially higher office after.

His campaign earned more than $4 million in July alone, using the quarrel to raise funds with various emails.

"We've already heard the Biden administration and government bureaucrats like Dr. Anthony Fauci said they want to keep your kids as young as 3 years old in masks, despite what the data and evidence show," said one email entitled "The Lockdowns Are Back."

Another followed a jab from President Joe Biden, who jokingly said "governor who," when responding to a press question about DeSantis.

Gov. Ron DeSantis emails sent to raise money in feud with President Biden
Gov. Ron DeSantis has used his feud with President Biden to raise money for his campaign.

The email, called "Forgetful Biden," said "Joe Biden is in a constant state of confusion, so it should come as no surprise he didn't remember who Governor DeSantis is. … He's the governor who STANDS UP to lockdowns."

Scacco expected DeSantis would continue to relish the war of words.

He warned, however, COVID-19 puts the governor in a precarious spot. If the Delta surge doesn't subside, he said DeSantis would likely take some serious political damage.

"I think that's a big risk here," Scacco said. "That the reality on the ground is now trumping the governor's message."

With hospitalizations still at record levels, DeSantis took his first major action on the Delta surge Thursday.

The governor announced the state would open rapid response monoclonal antibody distribution centers to boost access to the therapeutic. It can reduce the risk of hospitalizations by 70 percent if given shortly after a diagnosis.

The move earned DeSantis praise from one Biden Administration official, Dr. Cameron Webb, the senior adviser for Equity on the COVID Task Force.

"I'll certainly applaud the governor there," he said. "That's following the science."

Webb, however, warned the state was still in a dangerous spot. He encouraged more to get vaccinated and follow masking and other CDC mitigation guidance.

State Democrats, meanwhile, continued to call on DeSantis to reverse his controversial mask mandate ban in public schools and return to daily reporting of COVID-19 case data.