Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has seen his popularity slip with voters in his own state and now trails Democratic challenger Rep. Charlie Crist, according to a new poll.
But the survey, by Florida-based St. Pete Polls, found voters disapproved of the governor’s opposition to mask mandates in school.
Overall 45.3 percent of voters said they backed Crist, who was governor from 2007 to 2011, compared to 43.8 percent who favored DeSantis.
DeSantis is seeking a second term as governor in next November’s election, while Crist is his the frontrunner to be win through the Democratic primaries.
The poll was based on automated phone calls with 3,900 people, giving a 1.6 point margin of error.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (right) has slipped behind Rep. Charlie Crist in a new poll amid deepening scrutiny of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as the number of cases hits record levels in the state
Rep. Charlie Crist seized on the poll’s results to say he was best positioned to win Florida’s gubernatorial race, unseating Gov. Ron DeSantis who’s star has been rising
DeSantis allies rubbished the poll but the Crist campaign immediately seized on the results to send out a fundraising blast.
‘This has our whole team energized and ready to build a Florida for All,’ posted Crist on Twitter. ‘Will you chip in right away to help us defeat DeSantis?’
Political pundits in Florida said the numbers were a shock, coming after months of headlines positioning DeSantis as a 2024 contender and praising his handling of coronavirus pandemic and the Surfside condo collapse.
Helen Aguirre Ferré, former communications director to DeSantis, told DailyMail.com she hoped the pollsters had other jobs to go to ‘because they aren’t very good at this.’
‘This is the same polling company that said the Democrat Andrew Gillum held a five-point lead over then candidate DeSantis the night before Gillum lost,’ she said.
‘They were wrong then, they are wrong now.’
However, he is under fresh pressure as cases of COVID-19 hit record levels in the state at the weekend.
Florida is recording almost 20,000 new cases each day, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the highest of any state.
DeSantis has not backed away from his laissez faire attitude, banning schools from issuing mask mandates and businesses from insisting staff be vaccinated.
In contrast Crist this week demanded that state employees be vaccinated.
‘The way to stamp out the virus, and protect our public health, economy and our jobs, is to get everyone vaccinated,’ he said.
The poll suggests Crist is more in line with voters on COVID-19.
Some 62 percent of respondents believe masks should be required for children when they return to school after the summer vacation, while 31 percent say they should not.
That put DeSantis’s overall approval rating into negative territory. Some 43.7 percent said they approved of the job he was doing, compared to 48.5 percent who did not.
Florida is averaging 27,681 cases per day, a 342% increase from the 6,492 average cases reported two weeks ago (left). COVID-19 hospitalizations also reached a record high with 11,515, breaking the previous record of 10, 207 set on Monday (right)
‘We are not shutting down,’ said DeSantis on Tuesday amid growing concern about surging COVID-19 cases and his opposition to school mask mandates
A day earlier his leadership was called out by President Biden, who pointed out that Texas and Florida were responsible for a third of all COVID-19 cases in the country.
He said the governors of the two states were making bad health policy decisions.
‘They should free people to do the right thing, such as allowing teachers to ask students to wear masks, he continued.
‘I say to these governors, please help,’ he said.
‘But if you’re not going to help at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.’
He was also condemned by Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber for his decision to seek ‘political advantage’ by accepting the high rate of infection.
‘It really is sort of nutty too – tragically nutty in a sense,’ he told CNN.
But DeSantis has continued to play down the surge.
With the much more contagious Delta variant now spreading exponentially, Florida hit 11,515 hospitalized patients on Tuesday, breaking last year’s record for the third straight day and up from just 1,000 in mid-June.
DeSantis said he expected hospitalizations to drop in the next couple weeks, claiming that the spike was seasonal as Floridians spend more time together indoors to escape the summer heat and humidity.
‘We are not shutting down,’ DeSantis said during a wide-ranging press conference.
‘We are going to have schools open. We are protecting every Floridian’s job in this state. We are protecting people’s small businesses.
‘These interventions have failed time and time again throughout this pandemic, not just in the United States.’