November 27, 2021

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These Republicans torpedoed vaccine edicts — then slipped in the polls – POLITICO

2 min read

Then there’s the political calculus. Several Republican governors, including Abbott in Texas, are facing primary challenges from their right. Some, like DeSantis in Florida and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, have eyes on 2024. Both of those factors are sending GOP governors scrambling to shore up support among the party’s base.

“That audience is front and center in all of these decisions,” Republican consultant Brendan Steinhauser said.

And right now that base is anti-mandate. A recent CBS News/YouGov poll found that 64 percent of Republicans would prefer to vote for a candidate who encourages vaccines but that an even greater number — 75 percent — want a candidate who opposes mandates. A Morning Consult/POLITICO poll from August found only about 35 percent of Republicans were in favor of mandatory coronavirus vaccines.

Vaccine requirements “remain very unpopular with the Republican base,” GOP strategist Ryan Williams said. “Any support for a vaccine mandate at this point would be damaging for any governor thinking of running for president as a Republican.”

DeSantis has built a national reputation for fighting any type of Covid restrictions, including school mask mandates and efforts to force businesses to implement vaccine mandates on staff for customers.

As the Delta variant surged and DeSantis battled schools over mask mandates, his approval rating dropped below 50 percent, according to an August Quinnipiac University poll.

But DeSantis dug in. And as the Delta variant began receding and the number of new infections decreased, DeSantis saw his poll numbers nationally remain high among Republicans. A GOP poll found that DeSantis led former Vice President Mike Pence, 22-15, in a theoretical presidential matchup without former President Donald Trump on the ballot.

Now DeSantis is opening a new battle with the Biden administration over the proposed federal vaccine mandate, vowing to challenge the requirement in federal court and fining a local county $3.57 million after it ordered hundreds of its employees to be vaccinated.

“We basically don’t want people to be discriminated against,” DeSantis told reporters this past week. “This has become about politicians wanting to control people. … Why would you want to see people lose their livelihoods?”

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