Launched by Remove Ron, which is led by an activist who has stalked Florida beaches during the pandemic dressed as the grim reaper, the plane’s banner reads “Florida is on fire and Ron is missing” – a reference to the governor’s near-disappearance in recent weeks.
Mr DeSantis’s press team have been furiously defending him since his invisibility became a matter of controversy. Based on their statements, it is unclear whether he is on vacation with his family or not, and no clear answer as to his whereabouts or activities is yet forthcoming.
Instead of explaining what the governor is doing, his spokespeople have driven attention to pictures of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dining outdoors without a mask on a Miami street (as would also be in line with official medical advice in her home state of New York).
Remove Ron is one of the more visible groups in what promises to be a lively campaign to unseat the governor, whose handling of the pandemic has helped make him Republican voters’ favourite Trump alternative in a hypothetical 2024 primary while enraging Democrats and public health experts.
Mr DeSantis was elected governor in 2018 by a margin of fewer than 33,000 votes out of 8.2 million cast, giving him a margin of 0.4 points over Democratic rival Andrew Gillum. While Donald Trump went on to win Florida by a wider-than-expected margin in the 2020 election, Mr DeSantis’s handling of the pandemic and assorted controversial policies could help galvanize Democratic and swing voters against him.
Turnout may also be driven up by Marco Rubio’s re-election campaign and the Democratic effort to unseat him. The likeliest Democratic nominee is Orlando Congresswoman Val Demings, a former police officer who was reportedly vetted to be Joe Biden’s running mate.