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Trump and Cuomo Agree on One Thing: DeSantis Mishandled Covid

The two combative men from Queens have often been antagonists, but now they both see an opening to attack the Florida governor over his pandemic leadership.

Two portraits of, left, Donald J. Trump and, right, Andrew M. Cuomo, both wearing suits.
Former President Donald J. Trump and Andrew M. Cuomo have found themselves in a moment of alignment, each lacing into Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida over his handling of the coronavirus.Credit...Sophie Park for The New York Times, Richard Drew/Associated Press

For years they overlapped in New York politics, two brash sons of Queens rising through the worlds of real estate and government, as Donald J. Trump donated to Andrew M. Cuomo’s campaigns and made a virtual appearance at his bachelor party.

Then they were antagonists, with Mr. Cuomo, a powerful Democratic governor of New York, embracing chances to serve as a foil to the divisive Republican president.

Now out of power after Mr. Trump lost the 2020 election and Mr. Cuomo resigned in disgrace, they have found themselves in a moment of alignment, each lacing into Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Even Cuomo did better,” Mr. Trump said in a recent video.

“Donald Trump tells the truth, finally,” Mr. Cuomo declared on Twitter on Tuesday, though he distanced himself from the former president’s faint accolades on a new podcast.

Assessing the success or failure of each state’s handling of the pandemic is a complex task.

New York and Florida, two large and populous states, both had higher death rates per 100,000 people than many other states.

According to a New York Times tracker, Florida had a slightly lower death rate than New York did from the beginning of the pandemic to March of this year. Florida had a slightly higher number of total deaths than New York did, about 87,000 versus 80,000 in the same period, though New York was known early on as the “epicenter of the epicenter” of the pandemic.

As he campaigns in Iowa and other early nominating states, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has made his handling of the pandemic central to his presidential bid.Credit...Rachel Mummey for The New York Times

Both governors faced plenty of scrutiny and criticism over their stewardship of the pandemic, with Mr. Cuomo sustaining particular heat over his administration’s handling of nursing home deaths in the pandemic.

For his part, Mr. DeSantis, who has emerged as Mr. Trump’s chief Republican rival, has made his pandemic record — including his decision to reopen his state’s economy relatively early, even in the face of coronavirus surges and rising hospitalizations — a focal point of his campaign.

He has used the issue as a way to draw his own contrasts with Mr. Trump, who, he suggests, went too far in empowering Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert during the pandemic.

“Do you want Cuomo or do you want free Florida?” Mr. DeSantis said in Iowa this week. “If we just decided the caucuses on that, I would be happy with that verdict by Iowa voters.”

And in an interview on “Good Morning New Hampshire” on Thursday, Mr. DeSantis defended his record again, saying that “people fled Cuomo’s lockdowns to come to Florida.”

“He’s attacking me, siding with Andrew Cuomo in New York, over me,” Mr. DeSantis said. “I think that’s a huge mistake.”

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

In New York, former Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, said the relationship between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cuomo had at times been less rancorous than those between Mr. Trump and many other Democrats.

“The acrimony that existed between the president and others was far greater than what theirs was,” said Mr. Paterson, who mentioned that he had recently dined with Mr. Cuomo.

“The positive interaction now is, it’s a tricky path,” he said, even as he noted that he did not expect it to be a “prelude to a partnership.”

In his podcast, Mr. Cuomo made plain that he did not intend to bear-hug Mr. Trump, noting that the former president had been highly critical of Democratic governors at the height of the pandemic, but seemed to be changing his tune — making a “total 180” — as he focused on a primary rival.

“Now the politics has shifted for Mr. Trump, who is running against Mr. DeSantis, and now Mr. Trump says, ‘Cuomo did a better job than DeSantis,’” Mr. Cuomo said. “I’m very proud of the way New York handled it.”

Katie Glueck is a national political reporter. Previously, she was chief Metro political correspondent, and a lead reporter for The Times covering the Biden campaign. She also covered politics for McClatchy’s Washington bureau and for Politico. More about Katie Glueck

A version of this article appears in print on  , Section A, Page 15 of the New York edition with the headline: On DeSantis, Trump and Cuomo Agree. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe