President Joe Biden is heading to Florida on Saturday for a firsthand look at Hurricane Idalia’s destruction, but he won’t be seeing the state’s Republican governor and 2024 presidential hopeful, Ron DeSantis, who suggested such a meeting could hinder disaster response efforts.
“We don’t have any plans for the governor to meet with the president,” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said in a statement. “In these rural communities, and so soon after impact, the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts.”
In response to DeSantis eventually preemptively calling off a meeting, White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons said, “President Biden and the First Lady look forward to meeting members of the community impacted by Hurricane Idalia and surveying impacts of the storm.”
“Their visit to Florida has been planned in close coordination” with Federal Emergency Management personnel “as well as state and local leaders to ensure there is no impact on response operations,” Simons said in a statement.
The political disconnect between both sides is a break from the recent past, since Biden and DeSantis met when the president toured Florida after Hurricane Ian hit the state last year, and following the Surfside condo collapse in Miami Beach in summer 2021. But DeSantis is now running to unseat Biden, and he only left the Republican presidential primary trail with Idalia barreling toward his state.
Both Biden and DeSantis at first suggested that helping storm victims would outweigh partisan differences. But the governor began suggesting that a presidential trip would complicate response logistics as the week wore on.
“There’s a time and a place to have political season,” the governor said before Idalia made landfall. “But then there’s a time and a place to say that this is something that’s life threatening, this is something that could potentially cost somebody their life, it could cost them their livelihood.”
By Friday, the governor was telling reporters of Biden, “one thing I did mention to him on the phone” was “it would be very disruptive to have the whole security apparatus that goes” with the president “because there are only so many ways to get into” many of the hardest hit areas.
“What we want to do is make sure that the power restoration continues and the relief efforts continue and we don’t have any interruption in that,” DeSantis said.
Biden joked while delivering pizzas to workers at FEMA’s Washington headquarters on Thursday that he’d spoken to DeSantis so frequently about Idalia that “there should be a direct dial” between the pair. Homeland Security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall pointed to the experiences after Ian and Surfside collapse in saying earlier this week that Biden and DeSantis “are very collegial when we have the work to do together of helping Americans in need, citizens of Florida in need.”
DeSantis has built his White House bid around dismantling what he calls Democrats’ “woke” policies. The Governor also frequently draws applause at GOP rallies by declaring that it’s time to send “Joe Biden back to his basement,” a reference to the Democrat’s Delaware home, where he spent much of his time during the early lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic.