Governor Ron DeSantis has no plans to give President Joe Biden a cheap photo op when he comes to Florida to survey the wreckage from Hurricane Idalia on Saturday.
“We don’t have any plans for the Governor to meet with the President tomorrow,” Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for the Florida governor’s office, 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,” he added.
The White House appeared to bristle at the governor’s rejection of the presidential overture to give Joe Biden much-needed bipartisan optics amid flagging approval numbers.
“The president informed the governor yesterday before his visit to FEMA,” the White House protested. “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.”
Biden initially revealed his plans to journey to Florida during his visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
“I am going to Florida Saturday morning,” he told reporters.
Biden and DeSantis, the latter vying for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, had a phone conversation shortly before Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida as a Category 3 storm on Wednesday.
Following the landfall, DeSantis conducted several news conferences and toured storm-ravaged communities. His presidential campaign activities have been temporarily halted since Monday, with the reason being his commitment to stay in Florida to assist with preparations, response, and recovery efforts.
The Florida Democratic Party appeared poised to exploit the “bipartisan” optics for Biden’s visit to the Sunshine State.
“On behalf of the Florida Democrats, I would like to extend a warm welcome to President Biden as he tours the counties hardest hit by Hurricane Idalia,” said FDP Chair Nikki Fried. “From disaster relief to infrastructure investments, President Biden continues to show up for Floridians.”
“Though the circumstances are tragic, Floridians appreciate knowing that their president has their back,” she claimed. “The empathy he shows to people who are suffering is why he got elected — it’s one of the marks of a true leader, and it’s why President Biden is the right person to lead us through these difficult times.”
“Unfortunately, Ron keeps showing us what divisive leadership looks like,” she remarked. “In times of crisis, the American people expect our leaders to put aside their differences and find strength in unity. By refusing to meet with President Biden, he’s proving again what we’ve known for years — Ron will always put politics over people. I hope his fundraisers in Iowa are worth it.”
But DeSantis apparently has no plans to fall into the trap that former President Barack Obama set for then New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, which still haunts the latter’s national political aspirations to this day.
The infamous “hug.”
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Christie and Obama palled around and exchanged flattering comments.
Photos posted online show the pair also chumming it up together in September of 2011 in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene – a year before the controversy surrounding Hurricane Sandy.
The Romney campaign remembers the pivotal moment bitterly.
In late October 2012, the competition between GOP nominee Mitt Romney and President Obama was intensifying. A Business Insider headline from October 27, 2012, read: “Gallup: Romney holds five-point lead, Obama approval rating slides.” Romney appeared to be gaining momentum.
“Then came Hurricane Sandy,” recalls a prominent adviser from Romney’s team. On Monday, October 29, after the devastation of the Jersey shore, “Christie starts his bromance with Obama,” as recounted by the former aide. “At one point, Pufferfish had a ride with Obama on Marine One. That apparently made a major impression on him.”
“Pufferfish” was the internal code name used by Team Romney during their vetting process of Christie as a potential running mate.
Sandy disrupted Romney’s campaign efforts in the final week. Instead of engaging in his usual radical community organizer antics, President Obama seemed to rise above the political fray, donned his presidential windbreaker, and took on the role of the ‘man of action.’
“Pufferfish was humping Obama’s leg,” a Romney aide said. “Pufferish was very upset that he did not make it as Romney’s V.P. pick.”
In the aftermath of the disastrous optics for the Romney campaign, Christie was invited to attend an eleventh-hour political rally in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
“They asked Christie to come to the rally,” the aide said. “Christie’s people said he wouldn’t leave the state. So, Romney’s people offered to send a helicopter. Christie could get from Trenton to the rally in 15 minutes.”
“Christie said that he did not want to threaten federal disaster money,” which his newfound friend Barack Obama controlled. “He said he did not want to attack Obama. But he didn’t have to do that. All he had to do was introduce ‘My good friend, Mitt Romney.’ All he did was repeat himself: ‘I won’t leave the state.’”
Christie, for his part, denied that the “hug” ever happened.
“A hug with the president,” Christie said. “Yeah, no, I’ve got to tell you, I can’t disappoint you all enough, I didn’t hug him. And as you all have learned in New Hampshire, I hug everybody. So it was a disappointment probably for him that I didn’t hug him.”
Christie did admit that he had shook Obama’s hand. “When he got off Air Force One, I did shake his hand, which I’ll tell you what, civilized human beings do with other civilized human beings,” he said.
But while Christie talks as if he put New Jersey ahead of politics, millions of Republican voters believe he put New Jersey ahead of the fate of a nation.
Ron DeSantis, if he does anything right this presidential campaign, has no intention of falling into Biden’s photo-op trap.
This may appear like petty politics to the uninitiated, but the context for DeSantis’ snub is the Democrats’ tying of supplemental Florida hurricane relief to a 44th aid package for Ukraine, which is not a U.S. state, contrary to common belief.
The context for Joe Biden’s visit to Florida also comes after the disastrous optics of vacationing during the Maui wildfires, which were the deadliest in modern U.S. history.
The Florida hurricane thus presents an opportune moment for Joe Biden to attempt to rehabilitate his image. But DeSantis apparently has no intention of letting the president do so at his expense.