When the coronavirus ravaged Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis defiantly bucked mask mandates. He later cracked down on protesters advocating racial justice, blasted President Joe Biden on immigration, jumped into the fight over transgender athletes and signed sweeping legislation to toughen voting rules.
But after a deadly building collapse, the Republican governor is largely hitting pause on the culture wars.
Since that victory, DeSantis has often taken his cues from Trump. But as he prepares for a reelection bid next year that could propel him into a presidential campaign, the tragedy in Surfside is exposing voters to a different side of the governor. He’s still the conservative populist who rarely parts with Trump. But unlike the former president, DeSantis is showing that he can tone down some of his most extreme partisan rhetoric during a disaster.
“The governor has been decisive. He’s been constant. He’s been collaborative,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Danielle Levine Cava, a Democrat who has sparred with DeSantis in the past, said in an interview. “Hats off to the governor for how he has supported us in this crisis.”
Charles Burkett, the nonpartisan mayor of Surfside, called the level of cooperation “astounding, even surprising.”