Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis still refuses to enact a statewide mask mandate. On Sunday, his state reported a record number (for any state) of new cases: 15,300. The Post also reports, “Walt Disney World in Orlando reopened after having been shuttered for nearly four months, even as Florida continued to report record infections. Testing supplies in the state are running low, and some big labs are taking several days to return results.” The human and economic tragedy (the state’s unemployment was already at 14.5 percent before the latest devastating health numbers came in) unfolding is a direct result of the governor’s insistence on following President Trump’s reckless disregard for expert medical advice and playing down of the virus.
How is this going to work out politically for Republicans? Approval of Trump’s handling of the virus is at 40 percent in the state. The most recent CBS News-YouGov poll shows 64 percent think the state opened too quickly (68 percent of those think it was because of pressure from Trump). Trump is losing to former vice president Joe Biden by six points. Trump won Florida in 2016, but now Biden is better positioned to win its 29 electoral votes.
In Texas, Trump ally Gov. Greg Abbott flouted expert advice in reopening the state early. The Houston Chronicle reports, “Statewide infections grew by 10,342 cases, state officials reported Saturday, while another 96 people died — marking 255,763 cases in Texas and the number of statewide deaths to 3,156 people. The 24-hour period marks the third-highest day for new deaths and new cases since the pandemic began in January.” Abbott is now mandating mask-wearing statewide. His approval rating for handling of the virus sank from 60 to 44 percent, the fifth-lowest for any governor.
As for Trump, a loss in Texas would be a shocking blow to Republicans who have carried the Lone Star state in every election since 1976. Trump is statistically tied with Biden in the CBS News-YouGov poll and trails by five in the Dallas Morning News-University of Texas at Tyler poll. The loss of Texas’s 38 electoral votes could be devastating for incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and at least four competitive House races with GOP incumbents.
Then there is Arizona, where there are more than 122,000 cases. On Sunday, the state health department reported more than 2,500 cases and 86 deaths. Hospitalization and ICU utilization rates hover at about 90 percent. Unsurprisingly, voters are not pleased with Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and Trump when it comes to handling the virus. “With just 32% of Arizonans approving of his response to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Doug Ducey ranks dead last among governors nationwide in a recent online poll commissioned by the COVID-19 Consortium. … President Donald Trump earned a 34% approval rating among Arizonans.”
The electoral consequences for Republicans in Arizona (with 11 electoral votes) may be devastating. According to FiveThirtyEight’s polling averages, Biden leads 47.1 to 44.7 percent. In every election going back to 1952 except 1996, Arizona voted Republican for president. Trump’s rotten standing and the coronavirus pandemic may also undermine Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) in her race. Democratic challenger Mark Kelly leads (by a margin of four to nine points) in all but one poll released this month.
A year or even six months ago, you might not have imagined that the Republican president would be at risk of losing Texas, Florida and Arizona (totaling 78 electoral votes). Considering the sickness, death and economic hardship Trump and GOP governors have brought to these states, now it is hardly out of the question that Trump might lose any or all of them. A result like that might be precisely what it needs to shake the Republican Party to its core and cause its leaders reevaluate fidelity to a cult based on fear, resentment, racism and conspiracy theories.