Biden Surveys Storm Damage In Florida

President Joe Biden on Saturday observed the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia in Florida and took a walking tour of a recovering city.

Notably absent was Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who declined to join Biden, citing concerns about the impact on disaster response efforts.

Biden, when asked about DeSantis’ absence, said he wasn’t disappointed and welcomed the presence of Republican U.S. Senator Rick Scott. He assured Floridians of the federal government’s full support.

“I’m here today to deliver a clear message to the people of Florida and the Southeast,” Biden said after the tour. “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.’’

The mayor of Live Oak, where the visit took place, thanked Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for their support and “showing us that we’re important to you.”

“Everybody thinks Florida is rich, but this is not one of the richest counties in the state and there are people who are suffering,’’ said Frank Davis, adding he knew of no loss of life or serious injury.

At Suwannee Pineview Elementary School, where the Bidens were briefed on the storm’s damage, local officials praised the White House for quick disaster declarations and the flow of federal aid.

Governor DeSantis’ absence did not appear to concern residents and officials at the briefing. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Deanne Criswell, stated that her team and the governor’s team had worked together to plan Biden’s visit without any concerns affecting recovery efforts.

Hurricane Idalia made landfall as a Category 3 storm, causing flooding and damage in Florida’s Big Bend region before moving north.

Biden and DeSantis met when the president toured Florida after Hurricane Ian hit the state last year, and following the Surfside condo collapse in Miami Beach in summer 2021.

The political implications of their interactions following this most recent storm are significant, as Biden seeks re-election and requests additional funding from Congress for natural disaster response. Meanwhile, DeSantis aims to secure the Republican nomination for president but faces challenges from former President Donald Trump.

DeSantis has criticized what he calls “woke” Democratic policies and frequently targets Biden in his campaign rhetoric. However, he trails Trump in the polls and has faced campaign setbacks, including suspending door-knocking operations in key primary states.


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