Biden Heads to Florida to Survey Storm Damage

Biden Heads to Florida to Survey Storm Damage – U.S. President Joe Biden is set to visit Florida this Saturday to assess the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia and offer support to those impacted by the storm. However, he will not have a meeting with Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor and a potential competitor in the presidential race.

Biden, a Democrat, had initially mentioned to reporters on Friday that he would have a meeting with the governor during his trip. Nevertheless, Jeremy Redfern, DeSantis’s spokesperson, clarified later that no such meeting was scheduled. Redfern cited concerns about the extensive security preparations required for such an encounter, which could disrupt ongoing recovery efforts.

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At 44 years old, DeSantis is vying for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in hopes of challenging Biden’s re-election bid. However, he currently lags behind former President Donald Trump in the polls, while Biden, aged 80, is seeking re-election. Throughout the week, Biden and DeSantis have had frequent discussions regarding the hurricane that severely impacted the Big Bend region of Florida, bringing Category 3 winds reaching nearly 200 kph (125 mph). 

On Wednesday, President Biden assured that political matters had not infiltrated their conversations. “I think he trusts my judgment and my desire to help,” Biden said. According to the White House, President Biden, accompanied by his wife, Jill, informed Governor DeSantis about the upcoming visit during a conversation on Thursday, and at that time, the governor did not express any concerns.

“Their visit to Florida has been planned in close coordination with FEMA as well as state and local leaders to ensure there is no impact on response operations,” White House spokesperson Emilie Simons said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. DeSantis has been a sharp critic of Biden, and the two have clashed over COVID-19 vaccines, abortion and LGBTQ rights. 

But they met last year when Biden went to Florida to assess the devastation from Hurricane Ian. Biden said at the time that they had worked together “hand-in-glove.” As the Republican presidential primary competition becomes more intense, DeSantis might prefer to avoid being photographed alongside Biden while assessing storm damage. Despite trailing behind Trump, DeSantis currently holds the lead among the other Republican candidates in the race.

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Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, also a contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, faced criticism for praising President Barack Obama in 2012 when the Democrat visited New Jersey following superstorm Sandy. Biden recently visited Hawaii to address the aftermath of deadly fires, emphasizing the undeniable impact of the climate crisis amidst extreme weather events. After wrapping up his Florida trip, he is scheduled to travel to his home state of Delaware for the weekend.

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