by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The White House is increasingly taking aim at Republican governors who have relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, casting what President Joe Biden once described as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” as a pandemic of the red states.
This shift in tone comes as the pandemic’s resurgence takes a toll on Biden’s job approval ratings, dropping him below 50% in some national polls. His top two targets are Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, chief executives of the two biggest red states and national symbols of a rival model for managing the virus, who have banned mandates for masks or vaccines.
“I say to these governors: Please help. But if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way,” Biden said in a speech about the latest wave of the pandemic on Tuesday. “The people are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki used similar language at Tuesday’s briefing. “But if you aren’t going to help, if you aren’t going to abide by public health guidance, then get out of the way and let people do the right thing to lead in their communities, whether they are teachers, university leaders, private sector leaders, or others who are trying to save lives,” she told reporters.
“Florida is not the only state; seven states have both a statewide ban on mask mandates and a prohibition on school districts from requiring masks in schools,” Psaki said when asked about DeSantis. “And some states have even banned businesses and universities from requiring workers and students to be vaccinated.” …
… Texas and Florida have a combined population of 50 million people, giving them outsize influence on national COVID-19 trends.