Biden visits ravaged Florida – but not DeSantis

Biden visits ravaged Florida but not DeSantis
full screen After Hurricane Ian last year, Governor Ron DeSantis and his wife Casey DeSantis (left) welcomed President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP/TT

Joe Biden’s visit to Florida after the devastating storm Idalia has turned into a political game. Governor Ron DeSantis – who is himself aiming for the presidency – has said he will not meet with Biden during the visit and that a presidential visit will interfere with relief efforts.

Idalia swept across Florida on Wednesday, causing extensive damage, flooding and power outages. During Saturday, President Joe Biden will visit the affected areas and the residents there.

Both Biden and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis initially seemed to agree that the need for aid to storm victims would trump political differences. But as the week went on, the more DeSantis started talking about the president’s visit disrupting ongoing efforts. His staff then announced that there are no plans for a meeting with the president.

Reversal from 2022

On Friday, DeSantis said he told Biden during a phone call that the security apparatus with a presidential visit “would be very disruptive.”

“What we want to do is make sure that the restoration of power continues and that relief efforts continue and we can’t let that be interrupted,” DeSantis said.

The announcement is a departure from how the two politicians acted last fall when Biden and DeSantis traveled around Florida together in the wake of Hurricane Ian. But now Ron DeSantis is aiming to defeat Biden in next year’s presidential election, and letting disaster trump political differences is a sensitive issue for a presidential aspirant.

Criticism for Obama hug

Republican Chris Christie, who is also aiming for the White House, has had to defend in Republican debates that he hugged then-President Barack Obama after the storm Sandy in 2012 hit the state of New Jersey where he was then governor.

Biden himself has joked that he was so close to DeSantis that the two should have a direct line. In response to DeSanti’s outburst, the White House said Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, are looking forward to meeting with those affected and that their visit to Florida has been planned in close cooperation with emergency services “as well as state and local leaders to ensure that it does not affect ongoing efforts”.