Beleaguered Gov. DeSantis gets an attaboy from President Trump at White House

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a signing ceremony at the White House with President Trump on July 24, 2020. Credit: Screen grab from White House feed

President Trump praised Gov. Ron DeSantis Friday for standing up to pressure from the news media over the governor’s handing of the COVID-19 crisis, which has caused 5,653 deaths of Floridians as of the latest report from the Florida Department of Health.

“With all of the media back here, you’re under extraordinary pressure. And you never have pressure,” Trump told DeSantis during an executive order signing ceremony at the White House.

“One thing I’ll tell you about Ron. Matt will tell you: He handles pressure well. You’re doing a great job. Thank you very much,” the president said.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz is photographed inside the Rayburn House Office Building Feb. 27, 2019. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

He referred to Matt Gaetz, the congressman from the western Panhandle. DeSantis and Gaetz are close allies to each other and to the president and both watched as the president signed a series of executive orders intended to reduce prescription drug prices, including authorization of the governor’s plan to import cheaper drugs from Canada.

DeSantis did not directly respond to the president’s remarks but praised his efforts on drug price containment. “We did some groundwork, but really it’s a result of presidential leadership,” he said.

DeSantis has drawn critical state, national, and international news coverage over his COVID strategy. For example, see here (reflecting DeSantis’ slide in public opinion polls), here, and here.

Additionally, the governor’s conspicuous push to bring elements of the Republican National Convention to Jacksonville ran into a wall this week because of anxiety over COVID-19 and security.

DeSantis was slow to issue a stay-home order to reduce transmission of the coronavirus and was among the first governors to begin lifting restrictions. There followed a surge in positive test results and deaths from COVID.

The outlook is perhaps worrisome for the president’s prospects of carrying Florida, the largest swing state, in his bid for a second term in November.

Test results released Friday reflected 12,444 new positive COVID-19 cases and 135 Florida resident deaths. Total cases to date number 402,312. The rate of positive results in the last batch was around 13.3 percent.