Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is running just behind Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, a new poll shows.
The survey, from Florida-based St. Pete Polls, found that 45% of voters would back Crist, who served as governor from 2007 to 2011, while nearly 44% would back DeSantis and 11% remained undecided. Crist’s lead, however, was within the 3,900-person poll’s 1.6-point margin of error.
The poll is slightly surprising given DeSantis’ high profile — forecasters widely see him as a favorite in 2022 and a presidential contender in 2024 — and given the Democratic field seeking to oust him next November. A St. Pete poll from May found that 38% of voters thought Crist had a 50-50 chance of beating DeSantis, while 26% and 29% gave DeSantis and Crist the edge, respectively.
The survey also comes amid a massive spike in coronavirus cases statewide, fueled by the more contagious delta variant. Florida is averaging close to 20,000 new cases each day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a number up nearly 1000% from a month ago and by far the highest of any state. (RELATED: ‘We Need Our Kids To Breathe’: DeSantis Vows No Mask Mandates As Major US Cities Clamp Down While COVID-19 Cases Rise)
Deaths have also increased in the state, but by a far smaller margin since more vulnerable populations have gotten vaccinated at higher rates.
DeSantis has doubled down on his hands-off approach to fighting the virus, going so far as to ban mask mandates in schools and businesses from requiring vaccines for their employees and customers even as hospitalizations reached a pandemic-high on Tuesday.
“In Florida, there will be no lockdowns, there will be no school closures, there will be no restrictions and no mandates in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said at a press conference Friday.
Crist on Tuesday called for requiring state employees to be vaccinated, saying that “The way to stamp out the virus, and protect our public health, economy and our jobs, is to get everyone vaccinated.”
In a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw acknowledged the shift in hospitalizations to younger patients, and said that the governor continued to encourage Floridians to get vaccinated.
“We recognize that cases and hospitalizations have shifted to a younger demographic because we have been so successful with vaccinating seniors,” Pushaw said. “Again, we must continue this stride to expand vaccination rates across eligible age groups. As stated by Governor DeSantis, ‘These vaccines are saving lives, and reducing the mortality of COVID-19.’”
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