Monday, February 14, 2022







        The governors make it sound almost like an advance presidential debate, Florida vs. California, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis vs. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.


        This argument is all about the merits of how the two men, both up for reelection this year and each the almost absolute boss of his state’s response to the coronavirus, have handled the pandemic from its inception about two years ago.


        Thundered DeSantis, who will have serious Democratic competition this fall, “Across the nation (he means California), we see students denied an education due to reckless, politically motivated school closures, workers denied employment due to heavy-handed mandates and Americans denied freedoms due to a coercive biomedical apparatus.”


        Responded Newsom, “With respect, we’d have 40,000 more Californians dead if we took (the DeSantis) approach…I do not look for inspiration to that particular governor.”


        It sure sounds like these two are running against each other. But as they each without doubt contemplate running for president, both have big obstacles blocking the way in their own party.


For DeSantis, it is ex-President Donald Trump, to whom he shows almost blind deference. For Newsom, it’s the sitting president, Joseph Biden, plus his vice president, former California Sen. Kamala Harris. Newsom and Harris both began as proteges of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and have so far managed to avoid opposing each other’s ambitions. It’s anyone’s guess how long that can continue since both Newsom and Harris evince every sign of wanting America’s top political job.


But if we imagine for a moment we can see ahead to a time when the obstacles have disappeared and DeSantis and Newsom essentially share the battlefield, it’s useful to look at their respective claims.


        There is a strong mathematical argument for Newsom’s claim that his tactics of shutdowns and widespread mandatory vaccinations have saved 40,000 lives compared to what would have happened had California followed the Florida path of open stores, offices and businesses, with little mandatory masking or vaccination.


        Start with basic population numbers. At year’s end, Florida had 21.7 million people and California 39.2 million. That means California has 1.8 times the population of Florida.


        Florida in early February had seen 5.04 million cases of COVID-19 and its variants, California 6.87 million. So Florida has had proportionately far more cases than California. Florida had seen 63,158 deaths to California’s 77,966. If you did the math, you would see that if California had followed the same tactics as Florida, it would likely have 113,684 coronavirus deaths. That’s a difference of 35,718, only slightly fewer than Newsom said.


        But DeSantis would argue that many of those extra dead would have come from among the very frail denizens of nursing homes before vaccinations became almost universal in assisted living facilities. Most of them, this argument goes, would not have lived much longer anyhow, so Florida’s lack of strong action didn’t really do much harm.


        You might get a different sense from the families of those nursing home patients.


        But no matter. The differences between the Newsom and DeSantis approaches continue steadily and could presage future debates between them – if the Republican Party lets its presidential candidates continue the quadrennial debates that have been a key feature of American politics since 1960.


        DeSantis in mid-January deplored “authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions” due to the virus, Newsom at almost the same moment requested a budget allocation of $2.7 billion to expand testing, boost hospital staffing and give workers more paid leave when sick.


        It’s a direct contrast of government action and control vs. a laissez faire version of almost complete freedom of choice. That would make for a classic presidential race.


        In fact, if the race becomes a Biden rematch with Donald Trump, that could likely also be a major theme.


        No one can precisely project the future, but folks who like to fantasize about it and read tea leaves indicating what may be ahead can heartily thank both Newsom and DeSantis for providing a possible look ahead.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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