WASHINGTON (AP) — Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantisThe office said Friday that it has “no plans” to meet with the president. Joe Biden when the Democrat flies to Florida this weekend to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Idaliasuggesting that doing so could hamper disaster response.
“In these rural communities, and so soon after impact, the safety preparations alone necessary to set up such a gathering would cripple ongoing recovery efforts,” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said in a statement.
Idalia made landfall Wednesday morning along the Big Bend region of Florida as a Category 3 storm, causing widespread flooding and damage before moving north to drench Georgia and the Carolinas. Biden is scheduled to fly to Florida on Saturday to personally tour the damage.
The fact that DeSantis preemptively started a meeting contradicts Biden himself, who, when asked after a White House event last Friday if he would meet with DeSantis during his trip to Florida, replied: “Yes.”
It’s also a break from the recent past, as Biden and DeSantis met when the president toured Florida afterward. hurricane ian hit the state last year, and after the Surfside condo collapse in Miami Beach in the summer of 2021. But DeSantis is now running for president, only dropping out of the Republican primary last week as Idalia headed home.
White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons responded: “President Biden and the First Lady look forward to meeting with members of the community affected by Hurricane Idalia and assessing the impacts of the storm.”
“His visit to Florida has been planned in close coordination” with the Federal Emergency Management Agency “as well as with state and local leaders to ensure there is no impact on response operations,” Simons said in his own statement.
the policy of Putting aside rivalries after natural disasters. In fact, it can be complicated.
Another 2024 presidential candidate, former New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, was widely criticized in Republican circles for embracing then-President Barack Obama during a tour of the damage that 2012 Hurricane Sandy caused in his state. Christie was even asked about the incident last month, during the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee.
Both Biden and DeSantis said at first that helping storm victims would carry more weight than politics, but DeSantis began to suggest that logistical problems could complicate a presidential visit as the week wore on.
“There is a time and a place to have a political season,” the governor said before Idalia made landfall. “But then there’s a time and a place to say this is something that’s life-threatening, this is something that could potentially cost someone their life, could cost their livelihood.”
On Friday, the governor told reporters about Biden that “one thing I mentioned to him on the phone” was that “it would be very upsetting to have the whole security apparatus go” with the president “because there are so many ways to do it.” to enter” in many of the most affected areas.
“What we want to do is make sure that the power restoration continues and the relief efforts continue and that there’s no break in that,” DeSantis said. The statement about not planning to meet came later, with Redfern pointing to the governor’s earlier comments when asked how the fallout from Idalia might differ from Ian’s or Surfside’s collapse when DeSantis and Biden met.
DeSantis has built his White House bid around dismantling what he calls “wake up” policies. DeSantis also regularly draws applause at GOP rallies by declaring it’s time to send “Joe Biden back to his basement,” a reference to the Democrat’s home in Delaware, where he spent much of his time during the first confinements of the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, Biden suggested earlier in the week that he and DeSantis were easily cooperating. Delivering pizzas to workers at FEMA headquarters in Washington, the president said he had spoken with DeSantis so often about Idalia that “there should be direct communication” between the two.
Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall pointed to the post-Ian and Surfside experiences when she told reporters at the White House this week that Biden and DeSantis “are very collegial when we have work to do together to help the American people.” needy, to the citizens of Florida in need.”
And yet, post-Idalia politics could prove difficult for both parties.
The president announced his re-election bid in April, but has for the most part refrained from campaigning, preferring to lead by governing. The White House is now looking 4 billion additional dollars to address natural disasters as part of its request for supplemental funding from Congress, bringing the total to $16 billion and illustrating that wildfires, floods, and hurricanes that have intensified during a period of climate change are increasingly imposing costs higher to US taxpayers.
Meanwhile, DeSantis is facing questions about whether his campaign will be able to survive in the long run. Four months before the first votes are cast in the Iowa caucuses, DeSantis is still far behind former president donald trump, the leading Republican primary favorite. And he has gone through repeated changes in his campaign leadership and reboots of his image in an attempt to refocus his message.
The super PAC supporting DeSantis’ candidacy has stopped knocking on doors in Nevada, which votes third on the Republican presidential primary schedule, and in several states holding Super Tuesday primaries in March, another sign of trouble. .
Associated Press writer Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida contributed to this report.