A Democrat’s Unusual, Up-Close View of DeSantis

“This is a guy that can absorb a lot of information,” Moskowitz said. “He’s extremely bright.”

As for some Democrats’ view that DeSantis’s handling of the pandemic offers a political opportunity to attack the governor for causing unnecessary deaths — Covid-19 has killed more than 83,000 people in Florida so far, the third-most of any state, in line with its population ranking — Moskowitz is skeptical.

“You might be right that reopening society may have led to more deaths,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean that people didn’t want it.”

But Moskowitz demurred when I asked him about DeSantis’s recent call to investigate vaccine manufacturers for allegedly downplaying potential health side effects, positioning himself to Donald Trump’s right as the governor weighs a presidential run.

“I can’t speak for him on this, because obviously I’m not there anymore,” Moskowitz said. “So I don’t know what he’s looking at or what the thought is. I think Florida should be proud of their vaccine administration program.”

Underlying Moskowitz’s caution is the fact that along with New York, Florida was the state where Republicans had their strongest electoral showing of 2022.

For the first time since Reconstruction, there are no longer any Democrats in statewide office in Florida. The House delegation shrank to eight Democrats from nine, out of 28 total seats. DeSantis easily dispatched Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor turned Democratic congressman who was widely panned as a lackluster retread. Senator Marco Rubio defeated Representative Val Demings by a similar margin.

In November, Moskowitz defeated Joe Budd, a staunchly pro-Trump entrepreneur, by only five percentage points — a sign of just how far right the state has shifted. The district includes Broward County, a diverse Democratic stronghold, as well as portions of wealthy Palm Beach County to the north. In their 2018 race for governor, Andrew Gillum beat DeSantis in Broward County by 37 percentage points and won Palm Beach County by 17; four years later, DeSantis shrank his losing margin in Broward to 15 points and won Palm Beach by three. It was the first time a Republican had won the county since 1986.

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