Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States, has toured the damage in Florida caused by Hurricane Ida, but he has not met with Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential presidential challenger.
On Saturday, after an aerial tour and briefing from local officials and first responders in Live Oak, a hamlet hit hard by Idalia, Vice President Biden extended support and sympathies to those affected by the storm. No “intelligent” person, he added, could deny the reality of climate change after witnessing the effects it was having on the world, such as trees falling on homes.
A church nearby had its sheet metal roof pulled back by Idalia’s tremendous winds, and a tree had fallen on top of a house, crushing it halfway. “I’m here today to deliver a clear message to the people of Florida and throughout the southeast,” Biden said.
“As I’ve told your governor, if there’s anything your state needs, I’m ready to mobilize that support,” he continued. “Anything they need related to these storms. Your nation has your back and we’ll be with you until the job is done.” Biden’s trip, though, was clouded by politics.
The tweet below verifies the news:
US president offers support to people of Florida after Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential presidential rival, rejected a meeting with him. https://t.co/vE7BIUBmwu
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) September 3, 2023
The Democratic president, who has spoken with the Republican governor many times this week, announced on Friday that he and DeSantis would meet in person. A spokesperson for DeSantis claimed on the same day that the governor had no intentions to meet Biden and that “the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts.”
The president’s office was taken aback by the governor’s choice. DeSantis’s absence was brought up, and when asked if that disappointed him, Biden replied, “No, I’m not disappointed.” He could have been motivated by other factors. Biden told reporters, “But he did help us plan this.”
He went on to say that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was consulted in order to determine the most peaceful relocation options for the group. Despite their ideological differences, Biden expressed his appreciation that Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) had made the trip.
The 44-year-old DeSantis spent the day traveling the 80km (50 miles) south to visit small communities along Florida’s Gulf Coast. DeSantis is vying for the Republican nomination for president in 2024 in an effort to unseat Vice President Joe Biden, but he is currently far behind Trump in the polls.
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Biden and DeSantis have been in constant communication this week as they deal with the aftermath of the hurricane, which sent Category 3 winds of over 200 km/h (125 mph) to the Big Bend region of Florida. The president said on Wednesday that they had not discussed politics.
Taking a photo with Vice President Joe Biden while surveying hurricane damage could have been politically risky for DeSantis at this late stage in the nominating race. DeSantis leads the other Republican contenders, but he’s a long way behind Trump.
A photo of DeSantis standing awkwardly to the side as President Obama animatedly conversed with a local couple during Biden’s visit to Florida following Hurricane Ian last year went viral, drawing attention to the stark contrast between the two politicians’ approaches to public discourse.
Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and a candidate for the 2024 Republican nomination, was criticized for his warm reception of President Barack Obama during the Democrat’s visit to the state after superstorm Sandy in 2012. Senator Scott, a Republican, commended Vice President Biden for swiftly declaring a catastrophe when he met with him in Live Oak.
As for Scott and DeSantis, the president had nothing but praise for them. ‘The governor was on top of it,’ Biden remarked. FEMA has stated that the recovery work will not be impacted by Biden and DeSantis’s inability to meet.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell informed the media that their primary focus is now on restoring electricity to the affected areas, as search and rescue activities have concluded. As of Saturday, she reported that less than 1% of Floridians remained without power, while that number was substantially higher in other places directly impacted by the hurricane.
Politically, the stakes are high for both Biden and DeSantis in the wake of Idalia. The White House has submitted a supplemental funding request to Congress for $4 billion more to deal with natural disasters as Vice President Biden campaigns for reelection.
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That would make the grand total $16 billion, further illustrating how extreme weather is costing the United States government an increasing amount of money. o run for president, DeSantis has focused on rolling back what he terms the Democrats’ “woke” policies, despite Biden’s harsh criticism.
At Republican rallies, the governor is popular for saying things like, “It’s time to send Joe Biden back to his basement,” a reference to the Democrat vice president’s period spent in quarantine at his Delaware home during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Trump is the clear early frontrunner in the Republican primary, DeSantis is still far behind him with only four months until the first votes are cast in Iowa’s caucuses. And he has tried to refocus his message by cycling through numerous changes in campaign leadership and rebranding efforts.
As a second warning indication, a major political party backing DeSantis’s candidacy has suspended its door-to-door campaigning in Nevada, which votes third in the Republican presidential primary calendar, and many states having Super Tuesday contests in March.
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