Biden Won’t Meet DeSantis in Florida as He Tours Hurricane Idalia Damage newsbhunt


President Biden said on Friday that he would meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Saturday during a visit to tour the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia, the Category 3 storm that hit the state’s Gulf Coast and swept across the Southeast this week.

But Mr. DeSantis’s office said Friday that the governor had no such plans.

The unusual miscue between the two chief executives — and potential 2024 rivals — came after Mr. Biden said during a visit to FEMA headquarters in Washington on Thursday that he would head south to see the damage.

“By the way, I am going to Florida,” Mr. Biden said. “I’m going to Florida Saturday morning.”

The announcement had set in motion a flurry of activity at the White House, with aides and the Secret Service suddenly planning for a visit to flood-ravaged communities in Florida.

While Mr. Biden did not provide details about the trip, during an event at the White House Friday morning he responded to a reporter’s question about whether he planned to see Mr. DeSantis in Florida, saying simply, “Yes.”

Mr. DeSantis’s office said otherwise.

“We don’t have any plans for the governor to meet with the president tomorrow,” Jeremy Redfern, the governor’s press secretary, said later in the day on Friday. “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.”

Asked on Friday night about the statement from the governor’s office, a White House official, who was not authorized to discuss private conversations between the president and the governor, said: “The president informed the governor yesterday before his visit to FEMA. The governor did not express concerns at that time. The visit was closely coordinated with FEMA, state and local officials to ensure there is no impact to ongoing response operations.”

Storms can sometimes make for strange bedfellows, especially when a president from one political party is called to help a governor who might otherwise be one of his harshest critics. In this case, the dynamics are amplified, as Mr. DeSantis has been seeking the nomination to run against Mr. Biden in 2024.

As Hurricane Idalia approached and then swept through Florida this week, Mr. DeSantis had four phone calls with Mr. Biden, which both sides described as productive — a stark change from how Mr. DeSantis talks about the president on the campaign trail.

Mr. Biden traveled to the state after the far more devastating Hurricane Ian last year. At the time, Mr. DeSantis was still considering a bid for the presidency. But both Mr. Biden and the governor have said they are putting politics aside in the aftermath of the storm.

“We have to deal with supporting the needs of the people who are in harm’s way or have difficulties,” Mr. DeSantis said earlier this week when asked about Mr. Biden. “And that has got to triumph over any type of short-term political calculation or any type of positioning. This is the real deal. You have people’s lives that have been at risk.”

Mr. DeSantis said in a news conference on Friday that he had mentioned to Mr. Biden on the phone that in “the hardest communities, it would be very disruptive to have the whole kind of security apparatus that goes,” adding, “I’m sure they’ll be sensitive to that.”

So far, state officials have confirmed only one death as being storm-related, although at least one other was linked to Idalia as well. Power had been restored to many homes by late this week. Roads and bridges were being reopened.

“We were ready for this,” Mr. DeSantis told Sean Hannity on Fox News on Wednesday night, speaking in front of a historic oak tree that had fallen on the governor’s mansion. “Most of the people did evacuate, and so we’re cautiously optimistic that we’re going to end up OK on that.”


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