Ron DeSantis’ office said in a statement Friday that he doesn’t “have any plans” to meet with Joe Biden when the president visits the Sunshine State on Saturday to survey damage from Hurricane Idalia. Earlier in the day, the president had said that the two would meet, but the Florida governor would instead prefer to focus on recovery efforts:
“We don’t have any plans for the Governor to meet with the President tomorrow,” said Jeremy Redfern, DeSantis’ spokesperson, 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.”
Perhaps DeSantis is hoping to avoid his own Chris Christie moment. The former GOP governor of New Jersey famously cozied up to Democrat then-President Barack Obama as they surveyed damage from Hurricane Sandy in the days before the 2012 presidential election. There were many critics who thought the moment helped Obama, who easily defeated Mitt Romney just days later, and Christie has never lived the episode down. In fact, current Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy mocked Christie for the moment in the recent GOP presidential debate.
Now this is Bipartisanship – Christie & Obama pic.twitter.com/JNPCtkBe
— RestOfWorld 4 Obama (@ROTW4OBAMA) October 30, 2012
DeSantis and Biden have been regularly speaking by telephone regarding the disaster, and the pair appeared together in 2021 after the collapse of the Surfside condominium that killed almost 100 people. But that was before DeSantis had announced his presidential candidacy. The White House sounded miffed at the snub:
“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,” the White House said in a statement.
A White House official, who was granted anonymity to speak freely about the trip, said Biden informed DeSantis Thursday and the governor “did not express concerns at that time.”
DeSantis’ account is different: he says he made it clear to Biden that the visit would be disruptive.
The media will likely play this up and make it seem like DeSantis is playing politics. Despite his intention to skip a Biden get-together, though, DeSantis said at a Friday press conference that he would put party aside in order to help the community:
🔥WATCH! Governor DeSantis says he will put politics aside to work w President Biden.
“We have to deal with supporting the needs of the people who are in harms way… got to triumph over any time of short-term political calculation..” pic.twitter.com/EL3NnRRMxj
— Chris Nelson 🇺🇸 🏝 (@ReOpenChris) August 30, 2023
Yes, we have to deal with supporting the needs of the people who are in harm’s way or have difficulties, 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. We don’t necessarily have any confirmed fatalities yet, but that very well may change.
And then you have people whose livelihoods have been turned upside down. And so they need support. So we’re going to work together from local, state, federal—regardless of party—to be able to deliver results for the people in their time of need.
Biden, for his part, has also pledged to put politics aside and joked that he should have DeSantis’ number on speed dial, they’ve spoken so much.
However, that doesn’t mean they need to hang out together, DeSantis seems to be saying. Not only might he be trying to avoid the Chris Christie moment, but surely the governor has seen the bizarre responses from Biden concerning the devastating Maui fires or his bumbling appearance at FEMA to tout Florida recovery efforts. Likely, DeSantis wants to do anything possible to avoid being associated with that.