Biden will spin Ian damage in Florida, in the fight against DeSantis for now


President Joe Biden will visit Florida on Wednesday to see firsthand the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian, again highlighting his frosty relationship with Gov. Ron DeSantis, the embattled Republican leader who could challenge the Democrat for the presidency in 2024. .

For now, Biden and DeSantis have put aside the political rivalry they started, and their administrations have been working together since the hurricane’s deadly crash on Florida’s west coast. DeSantis will meet with other local officials to brief Biden on the response and recovery efforts, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday. The joint appearance will ensure Floridians are closely coordinating the state and federal government to restore and rebuild, Jean-Pierre said.

“We are working together,” he said.

DeSantis said Tuesday that he would meet with his emergency management team ahead of the president’s trip to see if there is more the state should ask Biden for when they meet. But the Biden administration has been helpful, Ian said before he landed.

“(The Federal Emergency Management Agency) has worked very well with state and local governments,” DeSantis said.

This is the second time in the past week that Biden and DeSantis have agreed to a brief truce after a tragedy. A week after a condominium tower collapsed in Surfside, Florida last year – killing 98 people – Biden and DeSantis sat side by side in a public display of mutual grief. They exchanged pleasantries in front of the cameras, with Biden patting DeSantis lovingly on the arm.

“We live in a nation where we can collaborate,” Biden said in a joint statement. “And it’s really important.”

But the public animosity between DeSantis and Biden has intensified in the 16 months since that day, with the White House and the nation’s third-largest state seemingly constantly at odds. Biden has likened DeSantis to a schoolyard bully with his legislative agenda targeting vulnerable LGBTQ children. DeSantis blamed Biden for rising inflation and accused the Democrat of withholding aid for tornado victims earlier this year because the president “hates Florida.”

Tensions reached a tipping point just weeks before Ian’s arrival, when DeSantis took credit for two flights carrying migrants across the border to Martha’s Vineyard. Biden criticized him as “un-American”. DeSantis threatened that future conveyances could go to Biden’s home state of Delaware.

Asked by Biden if DeSantis would raise the problem of transporting groups of migrants to democratic cities, Jean-Pierre said that “there will be a lot of time to discuss the differences between the president and the governor, but this is not the time.”

The widening chasm in the fractured relationship has compounded DeSantis’ rapid rise to become the most popular Republican in his party not to have nominated Donald Trump. His penchant for grabbing headlines and angering liberals has made DeSantis a favorite among Republican voters, some of whom want to see him challenge Biden in 2024.

As he seeks re-election next month, DeSantis has turned Biden on the campaign trail against his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist. The Florida Republican Party has released ads on behalf of DeSantis that highlight the close ties between Crist and the president, suggesting that Crist would “do to Florida what Biden did to America,” and twice repeating a jab at Crist, saying, “Thank God. Joe Biden .

But those tensions have taken a backseat, at least for now, to the massive cleanup left in the hurricane’s massive wake. Biden said he had spoken with the Florida leader several times and promised to “be there every step of the way.” DeSantis praised the federal government’s response to the state’s numerous requests for aid.

The Biden administration and DeSantis have also joined forces to address questions about the timing of evacuation orders in Lee County, where a devastating storm surge leveled homes and endangered the lives of those sheltering in place. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell defended Lee County officials, noting the unpredictable nature of this particular storm.

“As soon as the storm was forecast to affect Lee County, I know that local officials immediately put the appropriate measures in place to make sure they were alerting the public to get out of harm’s way,” Criswell said.

At a news conference Monday, DeSantis tried to shut down a reporter who was trying to ask the governor if Lee officials had given residents enough time to leave before Ian arrived. Lee ordered the evacuation 24 hours before the storm made landfall, later than nearby northern counties, despite forecasts showing the possibility of dangerous storm surges along the region’s coast.

DeSantis said the focus was “getting people to stand up and stop constantly talking down and trying to cast aspersions on people who were doing the best job they could with imperfect information.”

Air Force One is expected to touch down in Fort Myers on Wednesday evening with first lady Jill Biden, who will join the president on Monday to survey the damage caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

A storm that many thought was headed further north will reach a still-shell-shocked community in Biden before a latecomer sets its sights on Lee and Charlotte counties. At least 100 people died in Florida after Ian slammed into the Gulf Coast as a major Category 4 storm. Rescue teams continue to search for survivors as residents comb through debris and search for temporary housing. More than 400,000 customers in Florida remain without power, and it could be a month before power is restored in the hardest-hit communities.

The visit has the opportunity to show how two men with very different temperaments approach an immeasurable tragedy.

Biden has often stepped into the role of comforter chief, guiding the nation through the post-vaccine era of the Covid-19 pandemic and through more localized tragedies in communities across the country. In less than two years as president, he has walked through the rubble of tornado-ravaged western Kentucky, hugged the families of victims of mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, and comforted those displaced by wildfires in the west.

In Ponce, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday, Biden assured the island’s residents that “all of America is with you.”

DeSantis, who bills himself as a hands-on leader, has ordered the state’s response with a laser-like focus on the logistics of getting the state back up and running. His press conferences rarely flourish with personal stories of suffering and loss — a staple of Biden’s speeches. Instead, DeSantis is often forward-looking and matter-of-fact. It predicts recovery statistics and explains in abundant detail the upcoming obstacles and the situation’s plans to overcome the collective difficulty.

Asked by CNN on Sunday for a message to people who couldn’t reach their loved ones living in the path of the storm, DeSantis’ response was typically pragmatic: He focused on the state’s work with Tesla CEO Elon Musk to get those affected online. the communities

“You will be able to log in,” DeSantis said. “So that’s going to be convenient for a lot of people.”