Opinion | Coronavirus vs governors: ranking of the best and worst heads of state


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo received the lion’s share of the attention as his informative and moving press conferences made him a national political star overnight, midway through his third term. But its track record in response to the crisis is more complicated than it suggests: its policies for the containment of coronaviruses were not the most aggressive in the country and did not prevent the disaster. He hesitated to close all statewide schools even as other states began to do so, and resisted a stay-at-home statewide order for a few days before giving in .

So, if not Cuomo, then who? I see six governors on the verge of collapse and six others who are in serious danger of damaging their political future.

The governor’s escapes

1. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R)

Perhaps no governor has done more to put the nation on the war foot in the fight against coronaviruses than DeWine, whose actions have contributed to the relatively small number of Ohio cases, with an infection rate per capita currently ranked 27th out of 50 states.

On March 12, even though Ohio had not yet suffered from a major Covid-19 epidemic, DeWine called for the closure of statewide public schools – the nation’s first governor to do so, forcing most of his fellow governors to recognize that they had to follow suit, and quickly. Likewise, DeWine set the tone for delaying the primary elections, even if rejecting an initial court decision was constitutionally questionable.

The longtime Republican official was calm, restrained and data-driven. He was not only disinterested in imitating Donald Trump’s style, he also wanted to challenge Trump’s edicts. When Trump tried to set a target to reopen the economy by Easter, DeWine gently but firmly pushed back: “When people die, when people don’t feel safe, the economy is not going to come back.” “

At 73, DeWine is probably not going to move up the ranks after all this is over. But if he has any interest in moving the Republican Party away from post-Trump from Trumpism, he now has a much larger national platform on which to do so.

2. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

Cuomo’s proximity to New York City – America’s media capital – has cast much of the spotlight of the other avidly ambitious governor of a big blue state. But on March 19, Newsom was the first US governor to issue a statewide order to shut down businesses and keep people at home. (Newsom received help when, three days earlier, public health officials from six counties in the Bay area responded first and issued a joint home stay order.)

The strong action seems to curve the curve. The number of cases and deaths confirmed by Covid-19 in California is increasing more slowly than in hard-hit states like New York, New Jersey, Louisiana and Michigan. (The number of deaths may be a better indicator of spread than the number of confirmed cases because the test has been so poorly administered.)

The national media are starting to notice. Even Trump, who has spoken to Newsom several times in the past three years, admitted this week that California had done “good work.” But Newsom and Trump recognize that California could still face an outbreak, which could weigh on its hospital system. Newsom is working to strengthen the system with additional hospital beds on ships and convention centers, and with an effort to enlist medical retirees and students into a larger health care workforce.

If he succeeds can ultimately determine whether Newsom is advertised as a qualified administrator who may warrant promotion to the presidency one day.

3. Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D)

In 2020, Inslee had already forged its national reputation by running for president as a visionary leader on climate change. Now, after his state has identified the first US case of Covid-19 and suffered the first group of deaths in nursing homes, Inslee adds “crisis manager” to his resume.

After receiving data in early March that argued for serious social distancing, Inslee immediately decided to ban large gatherings and prepared the public for tougher measures. Rapid action has paid off: Washington’s coronavirus death curve is flatter than any other state with more than 50 deaths.

At the same time, Inslee has been a public thorn alongside Trump. On February 27, Inslee provoked the president by telling Twitter about a sharp exchange he had with vice president Mike Pence: “I told him that our work would be more successful if the Trump administration stuck with it to science and telling the truth, “said Inslee. Trump responded with insults, calling Inslee a “snake” and publicly encouraging Pence to stop calling him.

Inciting an argument with the president during a national crisis can run the risk of making a petty and political governor appear. But that risk is canceled if you can still deliver results, which Inslee has done. In addition, most Democrats have no problem seeing Inslee take Trump seriously, and Inslee doesn’t have to worry about the voters’ swing at the moment. Either he strengthens his ability to win a third term as governor, or he resentfully positions himself for a cabinet position in a potential Biden administration.

4. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R)

Like DeWine, Hogan is a Republican governor who acted aggressively to contain the virus. Unlike DeWine, Hogan is more willing to criticize the White House.

When asked on CNN last week if Maryland’s social distancing policies matched Trump’s suggestion that it would be time to relax soon, Hogan was pointed out, “They don’t really match. Frankly, some messages are quite confusing. And I think it’s not just that it doesn’t match what we’re doing here in Maryland, some messages from the administration don’t match. ”

Monday Hogan wrote a bipartisan Washington Post published an article with Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, listing all the ways in which “Washington” and “the federal government” have not helped the country’s governors enough. And on Tuesday, when NPR asked him if Trump was “right when he recently suggested that states have enough test kits,” Hogan was blunt: “It’s just not true.”

As governor of a deep blue state, Hogan has more political leeway than DeWine to complain about the president’s management of the pandemic. But Hogan, who is of limited duration, has displayed great ambitions, flirting last year with a major challenge for Trump. He concluded, with precision, that he had no path to success and succeeded. But if by 2024 some GOP-ers rediscover the value of managerial skill, and continue to limit the spread of coronaviruses in his state, Hogan will have distinguished himself as another type of Republican.

5. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D)

Perhaps no governor has penetrated the skin of Trump more than Whitmer, who has repeatedly criticized the administration’s handling of the pandemic. He slyly referred to her as “Michigan’s wife” and “Gretchen Half’ Whitmer, “and as Inslee suggested that Pence shouldn’t call him. She responded in kind on her Twitter feed and in television interviews.

For the moment, Whitmer has made the most of his fight. A poll conducted in mid-March, in the midst of the initial clash between the governor and the president, showed Whitmer with a 60% approval rating and Trump at only 45%. Michigan Republicans warned Trump to tone it down.

But Whitmer also seems aware that she should only go so far. In recent days, while Detroit hospitals have suffered from tension, it has eased it. She rented the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for shipments of masks and fans. She has had civilian phone calls with Trump and Pence. As New york times reporter Annie Karni suggested that Whitmer’s gender may have something to do with Trump’s particularly harsh tone. But perhaps another major factor is that Michigan is a major electoral college award – a barely won Trump in 2016. As the Covid-19 cases explode in Detroit, if Whitmer succeeds in blaming Trump, it could help return the state to blue in November. But if Trump can successfully mark her for transfer of guilt while the pandemic is raging, it could cripple Whitmer’s ability to deliver the state to Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, Whitmer has become more fashionable as a potential running mate for Biden (whom Biden waved Tuesday evening on MSNBC). After lowering the temperature of her presidential fight, but with the rapidly increasing state workload, she must now assure her constituents that she is doing her best with available resources.

6. Puerto Rico, Governor Wanda Vazquez (new progressive party)

On the mainland, California was the first state to shut down non-essential businesses and keep large numbers of people in their homes. But in Puerto Rico, Vazquez moved four days earlier, closing shops, schools and beaches; order people inside and install a night curfew.

With Puerto Rico’s healthcare infrastructure still fragile in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the territory is extremely vulnerable to a pandemic. (At the beginning of January, in Vieques, a 13-year-old girl presenting with flu-like symptoms died in part because of the closure of the isolated hospital on the island from Maria.) Vazquez therefore had every interest in moving quickly and boldly.

She is also in a fragile political state. She rose to her post after evidence of corruption expelled Ricardo Rosselló, the last elected governor. But some accused her, while she was the justice secretary, of failing to properly investigate Rosselló. In January, she suffered another scandal when, after a series of earthquakes, unused emergency supplies were discovered in a warehouse. She is now facing a tight race in her party’s primary to win a full term nomination later this year.

According to the most recent data, Puerto Rico has a lower infection rate than any of the 50 states. This may be partly because Puerto Rico has a lower test rate than almost all states. But Vazquez’s swift and radical action on social distancing probably helps prevent the worst-case scenario – and may well help him keep his job.

The governor’s busts

1. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R)

DeSantis is one of Trump’s favorite governors and a potential presidential prospect for 2024. But he made a bad first impression on the rest of the country by failing to completely close Florida beaches before or after they were invaded by revelers during the spring break, many of whom then returned home to places in the United States.

He also resisted a statewide home stay order until he finally retired on Wednesday – following intense pressure from Florida Democrats, and Wednesday morning televised commentary by the sgeneral urgeon urge all governors to keep their residents at home. Prior to that, its seemingly most difficult measure was to issue a quarantine for travelers from the Tri-State area of ​​New York or Louisiana, but the focus on hot spots ignored the entire community spread across Florida and in other states. Florida already has nearly 7,000 confirmed cases, ranking it 17th among the states per capita.

Earlier, DeSantis justified avoiding broader measures. “We are also in a situation where we have counties that do not have community broadcasting,” he said on March 19. “We have some counties that have not yet tested positive. But everything we’ve experienced strongly suggests that you don’t want to wait for the community to spread before taking strong action.

DeSantis could still be helped by Trump, who could give Florida preferential treatment. According to Washington Post, other governors have struggled to source from the national strategic stock, but not DeSantis. And Trump was influenced by DeSantis’ argument that some social distancing measures are too bad for the economy. The post office quoted an anonymous White House official, who said, “The president knows Florida is so important to his re-election, so when DeSantis says that, it means a lot. He pays close attention to what Florida wants. “

For now, DeSantis remains on the GOP 2024 shortlist. But if DeSantis encourages Trump to make bad decisions, and if Florida gets its supplies while other states struggle, the governor’s ties to the president can become a serious responsibility for his own future prospects.

2. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R)

Aside from its neighbor, Louisiana, Mississippi is the southern state with the most confirmed Covid-19 cases per capita. Still, Reeves hashed the answer.

As Mississippi localities began issuing home stay decrees, Reeves issued his own order on March 24, broadly defining “essential” business and social activities – including religious services – and declared all order of any other “governing body” in conflict with the state order to be “suspended and unenforceable”. Two days later, under pressure, he tried to clarify that public policy provided only a “floor” that counties and cities could overcome, but added in a confused manner “that no order can prevent these essential services to continue. ” The mayors of Mississippi are confused and have interpreted the governor differently.

Reeves had resisted a statewide home stay order for ideological reasons, insisting that “Mississippi will never be China.” Mississippi will never be North Korea. However, as the virus spreads, Reeves may find itself drawn into a broader response.

On Tuesday, Reeves issued its first home stay order, but in just one county, Lauderdale, where a nursing home suffered an epidemic. “Lauderdale County businesses are simply losing customers to surrounding counties and BTW Covid doesn’t stop at the county line,” tweeted the mayor of Tupelo, who is in Lee County.

Reeves issued a statewide home order on Wednesday – but doesn’t take effect for two days. If the spread of the Mississippi becomes severe, Reeves’ random response will come back to haunt him.

3. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R)

On March 14, Stitt tweeted a photo of his family eating in a restaurant, as if he deserved an award for challenging the coronavirus panic. “It’s packed tonight! He shared with enthusiasm, but faced a backlash, then deleted the message.

The following day, Stitt declared a state of emergency. The governor’s spokesman said the following day, “The governor will continue to take his family to dinner and the grocery store without living in fear, and encourages the Oklahomans to do the same. Stitt has yet to issue a statewide home stay order. In the absence of one, the major cities of Oklahoma have imposed theirs in the past few days.

Two weeks later, the Oklahoma infection rate escalates and tests are minimal. Stitt is not the only governor to have been reluctant to apply strict restrictions, but he could become a case study on the pitfalls of using social media in times of crisis.

4. Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D)

You may remember Ige as governor who, for 17 minutes in 2018, was unable to correct a false warning of an incoming ballistic missile because he did not know his Twitter password.

Earlier this month, Ige called on his lieutenant-governor Josh Green to play a key role in the state’s response to the coronavirus. Green is an emergency doctor, so his calls for strict travel restrictions and quarantines on arrival carried a lot of weight. But once Green publicly lobbied for strong measures, Ige cut him off, ordering cabinet officials not to consult Green, and keeping him away from his press conferences.

Hawaii has faced an influx of “crisis tourists” seeking to overcome the pandemic in paradise. But as governor of a tourism-dependent state, Ige was reluctant to act. On March 19, the President of the State Chamber, his Democratic colleague Scott Saiki, reprimanded Ige in a letter, describing the administration’s response as “completely chaotic”, causing “great confusion among the public” .

Ige has now made peace with Green and recently ordered a 14-day quarantine for arrivals – although there was a five-day gap between announcement and implementation. A home stay order has been issued, with a few exceptions for swimming and surfing. I better hope that these steps will suffice.

5. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R)

Ige is not the only governor to take heat from his number 2. Ivey is introduced by his lieutenant-governor, Will Ainsworth.

On March 25, Ainsworth, part of the Ivey Coronavirus task force, wrote a letter to the other panelists. After some superficial jokes, he enlightened them: “A tsunami of hospital patients is likely to befall Alabama in the not too distant future, and I think this task force and the state are not taking a view realistic numbers. or prepare what awaits us. “

The next day, Ivey sounded a completely different note at a press conference when she rejected the idea of ​​a statewide home stay order. “We are not Louisiana, we are not New York State, we are not California,” she said. ((Washington Post data reporter Philip Bump warned Ivey that the workload in Alabama is growing faster than that in California.)

Then, at a press conference the day after that, Ivey pounced on Ainsworth, saying it was “not helpful” to “raise challenges and criticisms and problems that we know about, and n ” offer no solution and showing no willingness to work with the work group and the team willing to fix it. (Ainsworth’s letter actually proposed solutions regarding healthcare capacity.)

Ivey, who is not yet limited in his mandate, would be 78 years old before the elections of 2022. At that time, Ainsworth, who won a separate election for the Lieutenant Governor and did not present a ticket with Ivey, would be 41 years old and would be well placed to move into the governor’s mansion. Maybe Ivey will just want to retire by 2022. But if she plans to be re-elected, she must now worry about a potential main challenger who has successfully separated from her response to a pandemic. doubtful.

6. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R)

Justice is a billionaire political neophyte who won the governor’s election in 2016 as a Democrat and then, in 2017, became a Republican and a Trump ally. His lack of experience in crisis management was evident in his discordant statements and actions.

On March 16, he preached the challenge. “To cry out loud, go to the grocery stores,” said Jutice. “If you want to go see Bob Evans and eat, go see Bob Evans and eat.” The next day, he stopped eating dinner at state restaurants.

The following Saturday, Justice delivered a rambling address which, according to the Associated Press, featured “scrambled sets of numbers that intrigue viewers in their randomness.” He warned of the dire consequences, but neglected to issue a home stay order. “The governor urges action, takes no action”, Charleston Gazette-Mail the next day. Later that week, the Department of Justice finally announced a home stay order.

This lopsided performance comes at the worst possible time for Justice politically, as it faces a contested primary party for nomination to the governorship this spring. (Justice has just postponed the primary from May 12 to June 9.) Justice faces six main opponents, the most fiery challenge coming from former justice trade secretary Woody Thrasher. Justice is a big favorite to date, but a mismanaged crisis can quickly change the number of polls.


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